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Mom charged in kids’ deaths after standoff

Children Killed
Police stand outside a home in Louisville, Ky., Thursday where two children were found dead. Ed Reinke / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A mother allegedly killed her two children in their beds and later went to the college she attended with a gun on Thursday before handing over the weapon to a health counselor, police said.

The threat at the University of Louisville ended with no injuries about half an hour after it began, but school officials asked police to check on the children, and they were found dead with gunshot wounds.

Gail Lynn Coontz, 37, is charged with murder in the deaths of 14-year-old Greg Coontz and 10-year-old Nikki Coontz, said Louisville police Officer Phil Russell.

Gail Coontz was taken to a hospital psychiatric ward, said university President James Ramsey, and was later transferred to the Louisville jail. Officials there did not know whether she had a lawyer.

The woman was also charged with one count of terroristic threatening for pointing a handgun at an officer, university police Maj. Kenny Brown said. The woman gave her handgun to a counselor at the health services building, he said.

"When we were able to open the door and go in, the student and the counselor were both sitting on the couch," Brown said.

Killed in their beds
The children were shot sometime in the past day, Russell said, not citing a motive.

They were probably shot in their sleep, having been found "in the sleeping position" said Jo-Ann Farmer, chief deputy coroner for Jefferson County.

Coontz has been a student in the college of arts and sciences since fall 2006 and had not declared a major, university spokesman John Drees said.

The school sent safety alerts to student phones, cell phones and posted one on its Web site. The campus was not locked down, university spokeswoman Cindy Hess said.

The two-story red brick home where the children were found is in a tidy middle-class neighborhood about 10 miles south of the university. A garden at the home has a statue of two children playing with a bicycle.

'She was a good mom'
Russell and neighbors said Coontz was a widow.

"She was a good mom," said next-door neighbor Sheryl Hayven. "I would have never thought anything, nothing like this would have indicated this to me."

The neighborhood is normally quiet and the neighbors generally know one another, said neighbor Patty Schneider.

Greg would run from the school bus to the house every day, while Nikki would arrive home later, get the mail and stroll inside, Schneider said.

"It just all seems like it's going to be a bad dream and I'm going to wake up from it," said Schneider, who lives directly across the street. "How am I ever going to look out the front of my house again?"