OXFORD — An Oxford man shot his two young children and then turned his gun on himself on Saturday night, killing his 7-year-old daughter and leaving his 9-year-old son in very serious condition with a gunshot wound to the head, said Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.
“It doesn’t get much worse than this,” Early said at a press conference late Saturday. “This is horrible.”
Daryl Benway, 41, was found dead in the master bedroom of his Main Street home just after 5 p.m., next to the body of his daughter, Abigail. His son, Owen, was found in the kitchen.
Daryl’s brother, Shawn, was home at the time of the shootings and called police. He was not injured.
Owen is at UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center in Worcester.
Early did not offer any explanation of what led to the shooting. Police did not find a suicide note, said Early, and Benway did not have a police record. There were no restraining orders against him and no history of police calls to the home. He had a gun license, but it expired in 1999, Early said.
Oxford police initially issued an alert for the children’s mother, Kelleen Benway, who was not home at the time of the shootings. The couple have been separated for several weeks, Early said.
Kelleen Benway was located shortly afterwards. She is not a suspect and was not arrested.
News of the shooting rocked the small town, which has a population of just 13,709, according to the 2010 Census, and little crime, according to officials.
“We’re a beautiful little town,” said Selectman Henry LaMountain Sr. “A friendly little community.”
LaMountain could not remember the last time there was a murder in Oxford.
“Oh my god, years and years ago,” he said. “I hate to even fathom. Twenty or 25 years.”
Residents who know the family described Daryl Benway as a friendly and kind man and said they couldn’t imagine what might have made him snap.
“He’s the most happy-go-lucky guy I know. I just don’t see him doing that,” said Sue Brennan, 47, who lives behind the Benway home.
“They were excellent, a good family,” said Michael Courtemanche, 40, of Webster, as he stood under the awning of Route 12 Variety, a convenience store next door to the home, watching the flashing police lights. “Just like any other family, they had problems. But Daryl was always friendly, always in a good mood.”
Courtemanche said he grew up with Benway, though he had fallen out of touch with him in the last 10 years. But he said he saw Benway in Webster three days ago — Benway yelled a greeting across the street. He seemed fine, Courtemanche said.
But there were signs of cracks in Benway’s life. His wife had moved out, and, according to one family friend, he had lost his job.
“When Daryl was younger, he always had odd jobs at factories,” said Bob Smith, who lives around the corner from the family and grew up with them. “Recently, he went to trade school for computers. He got laid off, but he still had unemployment.”
A Facebook belonging to a Daryl Benway of Oxford, 41, shows a profile picture, posted on Dec. 22 last year, of a man smiling at the center of a holiday family photo, surrounded by a group he identified as his three children, his wife, and a granddaughter. A Christmas tree is visible in the background, and a friend commented that Daryl’s son was beginning to look just like him. On his timeline, friends had begun reacting to the news of the shooting Saturday.
One said, “Why Daryl????? Why????”Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at email@example.com. Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.