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Rapid City mother and son die in suspected murder-suicide

Rapid City Police Department

Police and family members are trying to understand why a 26-year-old Rapid City mother appears to have killed herself and her 4-year-old son. 

"That's one of the big questions right now," said Assistant Police Chief Scott Sitts. 

Trisha Paxson-Dennett and Russel Reeves were found shot dead at the mobile home they shared with Reeves' father, according to police spokesman Brendyn Medina. A relative called 911 at 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 20 after finding their bodies.

Family members have commented on Facebook, saying they are shocked and saddened by the situation since Paxson-Dennett was a good mother and they would have done anything to help her.

"Russel Reeves was a beautiful, joyful boy and the center of his father’s world," a coworker wrote on a GoFundMe page, adding that the father is grieving the deaths.

Video surveillance, dozens of interviews and evidence found at the scene all point to a murder-suicide, not a double murder committed by a third party, Sitts said.

Police are continuing to interview friends and family members. They are still keeping all scenarios open as they wait for forensic testing results.

Reeves' father is not a suspect and has been helpful in the investigation, Medina said.

There is little public information about Paxson-Dennett, her son, or the son's father.

The father and mother have no criminal history within South Dakota. A custody arrangement shows they both agreed to be part of Reeves' life and that they sent him to preschool.

The police department has mental health resources for responding officers and has connected the victims' family with resources, Medina said.

Those struggling with suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 or the statewide 2-1-1 Helpline.

Arielle Zionts, rural health care correspondent, is based in South Dakota. She primarily covers South Dakota and its neighboring states and tribal nations. Arielle previously worked at South Dakota Public Broadcasting, where she reported on business and economic development.