Deadly violence revisits Indiana in weekend incidents
Two families brought together by small-town geography were torn apart in separate violent incidents this weekend that left four people dead, two men in jail and a quiet corner of Indiana County struggling to comprehend its twin tragedies.
State police say Shaun Fairman shot and killed his father-in-law, Richard Earl Shotts, 55, early Sunday while Shotts tried to protect his wife, daughter and two grandchildren. Shotts of Rural Valley lived just over five miles from the mobile home where police said two girls were killed on Friday night, not long before their father, Lewis Beatty, was arrested. Police said Beatty’s wife, Christine Beatty, was killed that night in a house 15 minutes away.
Christine Beatty and Candice Shotts, Richard Shotts’ widow, were friends and saw each other frequently, said Linda Saxfield, 56, who works with Candice Shotts at Nelson’s Mini Mart. Indiana County Coroner Michael Baker’s office said the shootings are unrelated, and Saxfield said the two accused men likely knew each other only in passing.
“Dick was a wonderful person. He was very close to his children and grandchildren. … I can’t wrap my head around any of it,” Saxfield said.
Christine Beatty used to work at the same store, and Beatty and her daughters — Sara, 6, and Amanda, 11 — frequently stopped in, either to shop or so Beatty could sell Avon products to the women who work behind the cash register and deli counter.
Richard and Candice Shotts spent Saturday night and last night at the North Mahoning Township home of their daughter, Jessica Fairman, because they worried that her estranged husband might try to hurt her, according to a statement from Baker. Jessica Fairman filed a protection from abuse order against Shaun Fairman about May 22.
“She was worried,” said Abe Miller, 25, who lives on a farm across the road from Jessica Fairman’s home.
A few days earlier, she came to Miller and told him that a friend of her husband’s, who owns a gun shop, told her that Shaun Fairman was trying to get a gun. Fairman’s guns had been confiscated when Jessica Fairman filed the protection from abuse order, Miller said. The friend did not give him one, she told Miller.
On Saturday, Shaun Fairman received notice that his wife had filed for divorce. Hours later, about 1 a.m., he drove to the house where his wife, children and parents-in-law were. His Chevrolet pickup carved deep tracks in the sod on the steeply sloped lawn. He carried a 30-06 rifle and a .45-caliber handgun, said state police Lt. Bernard Petrovsky.
“He (was) looking for trouble,” Petrovsky said.
Richard Shotts was a former coal miner who took a maintenance job at Indiana University of Pennsylvania when the mine closed. He stood at the kitchen window, between his family and Shaun Fairman, holding his own gun, according to the coroner’s office.
“Shotts apparently tried to diffuse the situation and talk to Fairman, but when he placed his own weapon into his pocket, Fairman immediately raised the handgun and shot him through the window,” hitting him in the neck, according to Baker’s statement.
Candice Shotts took her grandchildren to the attic. Jessica Fairman hid in a second-floor bedroom. Shaun Fairman entered the house and went from room to room looking for his wife. When he got to her door, she fired a .22-caliber handgun, hitting him twice in the shoulder. She held him at gunpoint until police and emergency medical personnel arrived. Her father was pronounced dead at 2:15 a.m. at the scene.
Doctors treated Shaun Fairman at Punxsutawney Hospital and released him into police custody, Baker said. Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty charged him with criminal homicide, and police took him to the Indiana County Jail — the same jail where, about 30 hours earlier, they had taken Lewis Beatty after finding the bodies of his wife and daughters, the woman and girls who crossed paths with Candice Shotts so frequently.
Police found Christine Beatty’s body in the burning home she rented in East Mahoning after she left Lewis Beatty. Police arrested Beatty at his mobile home in South Mahoning, the one just five miles from Richard Shotts’ house. Firefighters responding to a fire at Lewis Beatty’s home found the bodies of his daughters. The girls’ grandfather, Ron Smail, told the Tribune-Review that their throats had been cut.
For much of the afternoon Sunday, a gentle rain fell on the country roads that connect the quiet homes emptied by the events of this bloody weekend. Trotting horses pulled black Amish buggies, and neighbors gathered in churches, on porches and in local stores, speaking quietly of senselessness. People in the area grew up together and watched their children grow up together as well, Saxfield said. Everybody knows everybody.
“He was a very good man,” Saxfield said of Shotts, her eyes filling with tears. “I can’t even start to understand it.”