Carbondale School Helps Classmates Cope After Dad Kills 3 Children

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Two days after police found four dead in Scranton, law enforcement released the names of the victims. It's a crime that rocked a town and destroyed a family.

Amy Shirley told law enforcement that Monday started out as a "normal day". She left for work in Topeka at 6:30a.m. and by 9:00a.m. got the call from school officials that her three children never made it there. No one answered when she called home.

"Mrs. Shirley and the neighbor discovered that her house had been burnt and there were bodies in the residence," read Osage County Sheriff Laurie Dunn.

Those were the bodies of her husband michael, her 14 year old son ethan, 11 year old daughter ashten and 9 year old son caleb, he went by jackson.

"It has been determined by our investigation that Michael Shirley killed his three children and then set the house on fire," Dunn reads.

Fire investigators say Michael Shirley poured an "igniteable liquid" all over the living room of the home and then started a fire. Because all the windows in the home were closed, the fire only survived from the oxygen in the house. Investigators guess the fire didn't burn more than 15 minutes.

The father tried to shoot himself to death, but it was smoke inhalation that killed him. Law enforcement won't say where in the home or how the children died, but will say it wasnt the fire or a gun that killed them. They aren't saying why it may have happened.

"We've been at the residence the past three days and still have a lot of interviews to do. Those questions are still out there."

Counselors have been at Carbondale Attendance Center this week, helping students and staff cope with the loss of the three children who were students there.

Principal Michael Flax sent a letter to students Thursday afternoon. It read:

"We are so sad and sorry to have to share with you that three of our students here at Carbondale Attendance Center died Monday. Ethan, Ashten, and Jackson Shirley were wonderful friends and students and they touched many lives here at Carbondale. Please keep this family in your thoughts as they also deal with their loss."

If you'd like to attend a rosary for Ethan, Ashten, and Jackson Shirley, it's Friday night at 7pm at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Scranton, KS.
There will also be a service for the children Saturday morning at 11 at Carbondale School, 315 4th Street, in Carbondale, KS.

If you'd like to donate money, send donations to:

Shirley Family Memorial Fund
State Bank of Carbondale
P.O. Box 250
Carbondale, KS

Here's the press release from the Osage County Sheriff's Department:

Press Release

January 14th, 2009 1300hrs

On the morning of January 12, 2009 Amy Shirley received a telephone call from the school her three children attended, stating the children were not in school. Mrs. Shirley did not receive a response via telephone and went to her residence at 212 S. Lawrence in Scranton with a neighbor. Mrs. Shirley and the neighbor discovered that her house had been burnt and there were bodies in the residence.

Scranton Police Department along with Osage County Sheriff, Kansas State Fire Marshall and the Shawnee County Coroners office began an investigation.

The investigation has determined that Ethan C Shirley, 14 years of age, Ashten C Shirley, 11 years of age and Caleb Jackson Shirley, 9 years of age of the residence were all victims of a homicide.

Their father Michael L Shirley, 52 of the residence attempted to take his own life, but it was determined that he died as a result of the fire. His cause of death has been determined to be the results of a suicide.

It has been determined by our investigation that Michael Shirley killed his three children and then set the house on fire. The fire put itself out shortly after ignition. The children did not die from the fire nor gunshot injuries.

This case will continue to be an on going investigation between all agencies. Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones has been continually briefed and informed during this investigation and states there will be no charges at this time. After all reports are completed they will be reviewed by the Osage County Attorney’s Office.

Numerous lab reports are still pending in the investigation, which could take several months.