Investigators Consider Finances In Family Killings

Sep 23, 2015

SD Attorney General Marty Jackley
Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Investigators are trying to piece together factors that left a family of six dead in a murder-suicide. Fire engulfed a home near Platte one week ago, and responders found six bodies inside. Preliminary autopsy results show Nicole Westerhuis and four children died of shotgun wounds. Authorities suspect husband and father Scott Westerhuis killed them before shooting himself.

Scott Westerhuis was business manager for an organization called Mid Central Education Cooperative. Recent audits reveal financial issues with grant money that funnels to the group.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says no criminal investigation into Westerhuis or the education organization exists. He says state departments did not report any crimes.

“When they do see matters of criminal concern, they typically turn that over to law enforcement. That was not done in this case,” Jackley says. “We are trusting their work, but as part of this process we are verifying – so it’s a trust and verify. But, again, they are working with law enforcement to provide us that documentation.”

Jackley says Westerhuis learned Wednesday, September 16th that his company lost a contract worth $4.3 million. Officials say he shot his wife and four children that night, then killed himself. Jackley says investigators don’t know if there’s a connection between the events.

“There are certainly a lot of questions at this point. A lot of the questions are, ‘why?’ which is in part why we are focusing on some of the financial documentation at this stage, and we’re going to do our best job,” Jackley says. “It’s going to be a thorough and due diligent job of making sure we let other family members and the Platte community and South Dakota know as much as we can about what happened in Platte.”

Jackley says the Department of Criminal Investigation is amassing detailed financial reports and audit documents. Investigators are running tests to determine if an accelerant fueled the fire at the Westerhuis home. They are also working on analyzing the shotgun found at the house and finalizing autopsy results for all six family members.