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Thursday, September 8, 2022

The Charlotte and Owen Schilling Murder-Suicide Case

     On May 10, 2012, Charlotte Schilling, a mother of three, picked-up her youngest child, 10-year-old Owen, from his elementary school in Bellevue, Nebraska. She told the boy they were going on an overnight vacation to Lake Manawa State Park south of Council Bluffs, Iowa, 20 miles north of their home in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. When the 41-year-old mother and her son didn't return home the following day, members of the family became concerned, and called the police.

     Charlotte Schilling's relatives had reason to worry. The previous November she had tried to kill herself by cinching a self-locking plastic strip--a so-called zip-tie fastener commonly used to bind electrical wires and cables together--around her neck. A relative in the house heard Charlotte collapse to the floor, got to her while she was still breathing and cut the ligature off her neck. The day before Charlotte checked Owen out of his school she gave some of her belongings to friends and family. This was not a good sign, an indication she was seriously contemplating suicide.

     A day after Charlotte and her son left Bellevue, police found her car parked in the Iowa state park. She had left her cellphone and wallet in the vehicle. Investigators found no signs of her or Owen. A surveillance video from a nearby convenience store showed Charlotte and the boy, on the day they left Nebraska, buying groceries. The video revealed nothing out of the ordinary in their behavior. He is seen hugging his mother and she kissing the top of his head.

     Ten days after mother and son drove from the school, police found their decomposing bodies in the woods near the lake, a half mile from her car. They had zip-ties wrapped tightly around their necks and had died from strangulation by ligature. Police found no physical evidence of a struggle. Near their bodies the officers found some of the food Charlotte had purchased from the convenience store. While their times of death couldn't be pinpointed, the authorities believe they had died shortly after arriving at the park on May 10, 2012.

     Why suicidal people murder their children is a mystery. Perhaps they think the youngsters will be better off dead than alive. Maybe it's done to get back at someone. Whatever the motivation, the act is pathological and beyond rational explanation.     

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