By Becky Harvey
Horror and stunned disbelief were two of the emotions that residents of the town of Oxford expressed at the news a local dad had shot and murdered his daughter, and shot and severely wounded his son, before killing himself. Forty-one year old Daryl Benway, according to local authorities, first shot his nine- year old son, Owen, in the kitchen of their home and then his seven- year old daughter, Abigail, and then turned the gun on himself. Owen was found in the kitchen by his uncle, after Daryl Benway’s brother heard shots from his downstairs apartment and went to investigate. Owen was rushed to a local hospital and listed in critical condition. Both Benway and Abigail were found in the master bedroom, dead upon arrival. This is the first murder Oxford has seen in over thirty-two years.
Benway and his wife, Kelleen Plantier Benway, had reportedly separated. Mrs. Benway was not in the home at the time of the shooting, though she did come there while the investigation was ongoing at the Main Street home. She was briefly taken into custody, but it was quickly ruled that she had not been present at the murder and was released and allowed to attend her son at the Intensive Care Unit of UMass.
According to a family friend, Mr. Benway had recently lost his job and feared losing his home. The thought of losing his family must have made him “snap.” The family has posted a sign requesting to be left alone in their time of mourning.
The townspeople of Oxford reacted quickly and with great passion, organizing and attending in great numbers, a candle-light vigil at the bandstand on the common Monday night. In mere hours, coordinator Sarah Gaucher had organized the event, complete with donations from businesses in town.
Coleen Rea, Owen’s third grade teacher attended the vigil, along with his “adopted grandmother,” Joan Ayotte, from the Adopt-a-Grandparent Program at Chaffee Elementary. Rea said that “he was a sweet boy, such a bright child in my class. He never tries to draw attention to himself. He was just in a play, on stage, at the end of the year and he did such a good job. He is so kind to others. And he loved his sister. He was always talking about her.” Ayotte was visibly shaken at the vigil. She said that she just loves Owen. “He is always such a good boy. Oh he loves his candy, all kinds. If it’s sweet, he loves it. He would always try to sneak sweets during snack time. And he always talks about his favorite dogs: huskies. Oh, and his sister. They got along so well.” Ayotte stayed in touch with Owen after the program ended and has even met with the whole family. She is just shocked by the reported allegations against his father. “He seemed so nice.”
The vigil lasted for over two hours. It was very slow-paced, but extremely well done. Hundreds of candles were on-hand, along with cut-out cups and wax-shield rings. Cub scouts and girl scouts ran tables for people to sign cards/posters for Owen. Members of the Oxford Chorus, both present and newly graduated, volunteered to sing. Soloists Molly Ennis and Katie Shaw sang “Over the Rainbow” and “How Great Thou Art,” respectively. Chaplain Martin offered a moment of silent prayer, followed by the Lord’s Prayer and words of reassurance.
Gaucher, the organizer of the event, posted the following on the facebook “invite” to the vigil: “I sat down at the baseball field last night and was talking to Kevin Mercier and said I wanted to do something for this family. I threw out the idea of a Candle Light Vigil. 2 hours later at 6:30 pm we are on the computer and started this with just 93 invites and has grown to almost 4,000! We are are both so happy to see the responses and support. This is not surprising because we stick together in this beautiful town! Thank you to HOME DEPOT FOR BEING ONE OF THE 1st to email me asking what we need. All news Media are reporting this on the news.”
She stated at the vigil that the “main focus is on that poor mother that is suffering right now, and those two poor children.”
Facebook has lit up almost as much as was the vigil with some who are angry and disgusted; others flat-out refuse to believe that Benway was behind the shooting. A family friend, Robert Charbonneau, though not saying Benway was innocent of the shooting, did say that “He did love his children and his wife. He did take care of his kids.” Another family friend, Roger LeBlanc, could only say that it was “shocking.” Neighbor, Debi King stated that there were absolutely no warning signs and wished that Benway would have come to talk to her or any of the other people who loved him.
As the town tries to come to terms with this horrific event, there will be counselors available to students and families at Chaffee Elementary school Tuesday, July 31st.
- Wednesday, 01 August 2012
- Posted in Categories: : News