OXFORD — A man who authorities say fatally shot his 7-year-old daughter and critically wounded his 9-year-old son before killing himself had recently come under considerable stress, a family friend said Sunday.
“Then when [his wife] left him I think that was the frosting on the cake,” said David Farrar, 73, referring to the alleged gunman, Daryl Benway, 41. Farrar said he believed that Benway was in danger of losing his home, and another longtime friend said Benway had recently been laid off.
Authorities said that Benway, 41, and his daughter, Abigail, were found dead in the master bedroom of Benway’s home around 5 p.m., Saturday. Owen, Benway’s 9-year-old son, was found in the kitchen.
Relatives of Benway and his wife, who was not in the home when the shooting occurred, could not be reached for comment Sunday. A sign requesting privacy was posted on the front door of the family’s home at 128 Main St.
Owen remained in the pediatric intensive care unit on Sunday at UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center in Worcester, according to Tim Connolly, a spokesman for District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. The hospital would not comment on the boy’s condition.
Early said Saturday that Benway had shot the boy in the head.
Authorities have not released information about a possible motive, and Benway, who did not have a criminal record, did not leave a suicide note. He and his wife, Kelleen Plantier Benway, had recently separated, Early said.
Farrar, a former town selectman, said Benway had been doing part-time auto body work and selling old cars and heavy trucks for scrap. Farrar owns an auto body shop and said he and Benway would often discuss the going rates for scrap metal.
“When he worked, he was a hard-working son of a [gun],” Farrar said. “He wasn’t lazy. He never sat back and said, ‘poor me.’ Whatever he had, he worked for.”
Farrar said Benway in recent years restored or bought a series of classic cars and owned several when he died, including a white Dodge Dart that was parked outside the family’s garage Sunday. Cars were an interest that Benway and his wife shared, Farrar said.
He said Benway’s childhood was marked by tragedy, when his twin brother drowned in a local pond. As an adolescent, Farrar recalled, Benway had his troubles, “just like regular kids, raising hell.”
Candles and several flower bouquets were placed next to a tree in the front yard of the Main Street house on Sunday, and more flowers had been placed inside the the mailbox.
A 79-year-old neighbor, who did not want his name published because he did not want to upset his neighbors, said he was sitting on his front porch Saturday afternoon when he saw Kelleen Plantier Benway pull away from the home in a black Camaro.
“I seen her come out and peel rubber, about a half hour, an hour before the cops show up,” the man said.
Law enforcement officials did not release additional details about the shooting on Sunday.
“The incident is still under investigation,” Connolly said in an e-mail.
Counselors will be available by 8 a.m. Monday to assist anyone in town at the A.M. Chaffee Elementary School, where Abigail Benway was a student.
“The town of Oxford and the Oxford public schools suffered a tragic loss this weekend,” the school district said on its website.
Allen Himmelberger, the Oxford schools superintendent, said Abigail would have entered second grade in the fall at Chaffee, and Owen is scheduled to begin fourth grade at Clara Barton Elementary School.
Farrar said he had known Daryl Benway since he was a youth and last spoke with him about two weeks ago. “He was in good spirits,” Farrar said.
Friends continued to express their condolences Sunday on the Facebook pages of Benway and his wife.
“So very sorry Kell, this breaks my heart,” one person wrote on Kelleen Benway’s page. “You’re a great friend and just remember your friends love you.”