Murder-suicide suspected in Platte house fire

PLATTE – South Dakota's attorney general says authorities believe a man fatally shot his wife and four children, set their rural South Dakota family home on fire, then turned the gun on himself.

The six bodies were found Thursday in the burned ruins of the home near Platte, about 110 miles west of Sioux Falls.

Attorney General Marty Jackley said Tuesday that preliminary autopsy results indicate Scott Westerhuis used a shotgun to kill his wife, Nicole, and their children Kailey, Jaeci, Connor and Michael. Jackley says the father then killed himself.

Jackley's spokeswoman, Sara Rabern, says investigators believe Scott Westerhuis started the fire before he shot himself.

The following is the complete press release from the office of the South Dakota Attorney General:

Attorney General Marty Jackley announced Monday night the preliminary autopsy results have been released in connection to the house fire that occurred in Platte, S.D. on Thursday, September 17, 2015. Preliminary autopsy reports indicate that cause and manner of death for Nicole, Kailey, Jaeci, Connor and Michael Westerhuis were homicide by shotgun wounds. Cause of death for Scott Westerhuis was shotgun wound with manner of death as suspected suicide based on the current investigation findings.

“We have experienced the tragic loss of an entire family including young children that has affected an entire community. Based on evidence of foul play continuing to be uncovered, law enforcement remains committed to a complete and thorough investigation,” said Jackley.

“We at the Charles Mix County Sheriff’s Office express our deepest sorrow to the families involved and to the Platte community,” said Charles Mix County Sheriff Randy Thaler.

The Charles Mix County Sheriff’s Office and the Division of Criminal Investigation continue their investigation into the circumstances surrounding the manner of death of Scott Westerhuis, including interviews, evidence collection and forensic testing.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

A photo of the Westerhuis family.