Janesville43.6°

Domestic tragedy stuns neighbors

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August 31, 2008
— Before Janesville police officially announced that a local couple had been killed in an apparent murder-suicide Saturday morning, neighbors of Rexhep and Shukrije Menxhiqi had an inkling how they died.

The neighbors were stunned.


The Menxhiqis had immigrated from Albania. They and their five children—ages 9 through 20—lived at 12 N. Washington St., Janesville, since 2000 or 1999.


Alice and David Shetler, now of Milton, were neighbors for more than a year, living next door at 16 N. Washington St.


“They were good neighbors, good friends,” Alice said. “They were very nice people, polite people with good kids.”


The Shetlers and Marty Johnson and Troy Thompson, both of whom now live at 16 N. Washington St., said they had never heard a disturbance or argument between Rexhep and Shukrije.


“They were the nicest people,” Thompson said. “The kids were mindful.”


David Shetler said: ‘They’d give you the shirt off their back. You want something in the garden, just pick it.”


Alice Shetler added: “We had sat at their picnic table and had tea with them. They drank tea.”


David Shetler said: “They were the politest, nicest kids …


Alice finished the sentence: “… you could ever run into.”


Rexhep apparently shot Shukrije several times, before turning the small-caliber handgun on himself, reported Lt. Tim Hiers, head of the Janesville Police Department’s detective bureau.


“This appears to be a domestic violence tragedy where the husband shot his wife and then took his own life using a handgun,” Hiers read from a prepared statement. “There had been no prior police contacts at this residence for issues of domestic violence.”


Police also had not been to the home or had contact with the family regarding mental health issues, Hiers said.


Police had not yet determined a motive for the shootings, he added.


The couple were found dead in the same room, Police Chief Neil Mahan said, but neither he nor Hiers would disclose which room it was or what caliber the pistol was.


Four of the couple’s five children—two boys, three girls—were home at the time. One of them called 911 from the home.


None of the children was injured, although the couple’s 18-year-old daughter tried to intervene and help her mother after she heard gunshots, Hiers said.


The four children who were home range in age from 9 to 18, Hiers said. A 20-year-old son was not home at the time of the shooting about 9 a.m.


Police were still sorting out whether any of the children had actually seen the shootings, Hiers said.


Two police chaplains were meeting with the children, and Rock County Child Protective Services was contacted “to ensure appropriate care and services are provided,” according to the statement.


But Hiers noted that the family’s primary responsibilities now fall on the two adult children.


Rock County Coroner Jenifer Keach took custody of the bodies, which were removed from the home about 2:55 p.m. Autopsies were to be conducted, but Hiers was not sure when, or when results would be available.


Neither alcohol nor drugs appear to be factors in the shooting, Hiers said.


Police tape ringed the two-story white house just north of West Court Street and the vehicles in front of it, the backyard and adjacent alley.


Neighbors and friends sat on their stoops or stood in the shade to watch as officers went in and out of the home. The investigators wore blue plastic booties and gloves so as not to contaminate the shooting scene.


Police had to wait for a judge to sign a search warrant before they could search the house beyond the room in which the bodies were found. The search warrant arrived at 12:22 p.m.


A couple of gawkers snuck into Johnson’s backyard to try to photograph the moving of the bodies, but he and two police officers shooed them away.


Johnson and Thompson were home at 9 a.m., but they said they didn’t hear anything until the police sirens screamed into their neighborhood.


Shukrije worked at Monterey Mills, and Rexhep would buy, repair and sell cars, Alice Shetler said, adding:


“You couldn’t ask for better neighbors.”


The Menxhiqis’ nearest extended relatives appear to live in the family’s native Albania, Hiers said.


But a group of five men huddled across the street, speaking softly in Albanian. They soon were joined by three other men.


One of them, John Islami, was asked if he knew of any trouble between the parents.


“Not so far as I know,” Islami said. “I played chess with him (Rexhep), and his wife was always smiling, always serving, bringing us something to drink and eat.


“It looked like everything was all right,” he said.


Islami said he drove by the Menxhiqi home about 8 a.m. Saturday on his way to play chess at Hedberg Public Library.


All appeared normal then, Islami said, but when he returned a short time later, police had blocked the street.


Told of the observations of friends and neighbors, Hiers said:


“It’s like a lot of things with people: People have a public life and private life.”


Angelique Langlois, 16, and Tina Gibbs, 37, were among the friends outside the Menxhiqi home, watching police go in and out.


“He (Rexhep) always tickled the kids and played with them,” Gibbs said. “They were happy.


“They were always sharing everything. They were always giving their kids everything.


“They were outgoing, more outgoing than most people around here,” Gibb said.


“If you just met them, you’d never know there were any problems at all,” Langlois said. “You’d never know. They’re Albanians. They keep it all in the family.”



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