Motive ‘up in the air’ in Ohio mom’s shooting

Emergency lights (LIN Photo/Brett Bensley, File)
Emergency lights (LIN Photo/Brett Bensley, File)

CINCINNATI (AP) — The mystery surrounding the shooting death of a pregnant woman and the wounding of her toddler deepened Thursday after authorities held a news conference releasing few details about the investigation into how a routine trip home ended with the family’s car riddled with bullets.

Police at first thought they were responding to a car crash Aug. 28 when someone called to report a yellow Jeep Wrangler off the road in a wooded area in Ripley, some 45 miles southeast of Cincinnati in southern Ohio’s Appalachian country.

Instead, they found Brittany Stykes dead, and her 14-month-old daughter, Aubree, still strapped in her car seat, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head. At least five bullets had hit the car.

Stykes was a 22-year-old stay-at-home mom and was five months pregnant. She and her unborn baby were laid to rest Wednesday at a funeral attended by hundreds of mourners.

More than a week after their deaths, no arrests have been made and the motive in the crime “is still up in the air,” Chief Deputy John Schadle of the Brown County sheriff’s office said at a Thursday news conference.

“Obviously we’re taking this as a very serious matter,” he said, adding that investigators were testing unspecified items found at the scene and trying to reconstruct the crime. “We hope this helps fill in some of the pieces of the puzzle.”

Preliminary autopsy results viewed by Cincinnati-area media members show that at least five shots were fired at Stykes’ car and that two bullets hit her, causing three wounds to her body; the fatal shot hit her in the chest and punctured her lungs. The report also showed that no gunpowder residue was found on Stykes’ body, suggesting that the shots weren’t fired at close range, according to media reports.

David Dodson, Stykes’ father and Aubree’s grandfather, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he and his family are still baffled about why anyone would want to hurt his daughter and her children.

Stykes lived for her family and was loved by everyone who knew her, said Dodson, 49.

“She would call me every morning and it was always, ‘Dad, what are we going to do today?’” Dodson said, adding that his daughter spent every day with her parents while her husband worked his factory job in Cincinnati.

“She loved being a mom, that was her world right there — the babies and being married,” he said. “She wanted to be with us all the time.”

His daughter had just left her mother-in-law’s house and was on her way home when she was shot, Dodson said.

He said Aubree is getting better every day and has been asking about her mother. But until he knows who killed his daughter and unborn grandchild, Dodson said that he’ll be worried about Aubree’s safety.

“If there’s anyone who knows any information, I beg you, please come out and get a hold of the sheriff’s department on this,” he said. “We need answers.”

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to whoever was responsible.

“We’re not going to leave any stone unturned to get justice for Brittany and her family,” Schadle said earlier this week.

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