Indiana woman, 5-year-old daughter's carbon monoxide death baffles police: 'Did she want to kill the girl?'
EVANSVILLE, INDIANA: Police officials investigating the suspicious deaths of a mother and her five-year-old daughter in April said that the duo died from carbon monoxide intoxication. Kimbra Shanafelt and her daughter Dahni were found deceased at their Evansville home around 5.30 pm on April 22.
Sheriff Dave Wedding of Vanderburgh County said that they are considering the 49-year-old’s death as suicide while they believe Dahni's death was a reckless homicide. “We feel that [Kimbra Shanafelt] had the intent to kill herself. We ruled the child’s death a reckless homicide because the manner in which she died, her mother put her in that position — whether she did it with true intent or not,” Wedding told PEOPLE.
However, he noted: “The puzzle remains: did she intend for her child to pass away as well, or did she think her child might be safe in the residence and found later? Those are questions we will always ask ourselves and it will be a big puzzle that remains.”
“...This one-car garage had a furnace that would easily suck any vapors into the house through the ventilation system, but we don’t know if the mother knew that,” Wedding added.
He also stated that there were no signs of injury, break-in, or weapons found at the scene. “I was at the autopsy and we found no... significant injury and certainly not one associated with the death,” he mentioned while adding that it was difficult to “pinpoint who died first but they both appeared to be deceased for several days.”
As previously reported, police got to know about the incident after Shanafelt’s sister, Dana Markee, told the 911 dispatcher, "I think something bad's happened.” The relative went to check on the woman and her daughter after she had not answered her phone for a couple of days.
When Markee entered the house using a spare key, she located little Dahni laying halfway under a bed, and that it looked like "she's thrown up or something, and she's cold, and her eyes are halfway up in her head." But Markee refused to perform CPR on the girl despite 911 dispatcher's offer to walk her through it. The reason for non-co-operation is unknown, though.
At the time, Wedding said that Shanafelt had sustained "obvious trauma" to her face and body when her body was recovered from the garage of her duplex.
Describing her sister, Markee, told Courier & Press that Shanafelt, a single mother of two, had a “quirky, off-center sense of humor.” “She was really compassionate. She was kind of the artsy type. She loved handmade jewelry and music. She liked corny jokes. She loved her kids,” Markee said.
While remembering her niece, Dahni, who was a kindergarten student at Highland Elementary School, Markee said: “She hugged everyone. We could go to restaurants, and she would hug the waitress. She never met a stranger. She loved her teacher at Highland."
"I can say she would be absolutely shocked by how many people have been touched by all this," Shanafelt’s friend Sarah Wolf said. “She always smiled at everybody. She just did her best to provide and work hard,” Wolf added.