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Impact of murder-suicide ripples through community

OLIVIA -- A 33-year-old Olivia man with a history of drunken driving offenses and depression fatally shot his father before taking his own life on Monday evening. His mother is believed to have saved her life by fleeing the Birch Street West residence and using her cell phone to call 911 and summon help at 10:10 p.m.

Robert Mahoney, 58, appears to have been shot by his son, Jay Michael Mahoney, 33, who then shot himself in a murder-suicide, according to the Olivia Police Department.

Deb Mahoney fled outside when her son apparently pulled the gun on her husband, according to law enforcement records of the incident.

News of the tragic event spread through the town early Tuesday morning as some parents prepared to take their children to the day care center Deb Mahoney operates in her home on a quiet residential street west of U.S. Highway 71.

Olivia Mayor Bill Miller described the family as very well-known in the community, and said news of the tragedy both shocked and saddened many. "I'm sure the town will turn out to help and support them,'' he said.

Jay Mahoney has had a history of alcohol-related run-ins with the law, according to records at the Renville County Sheriff's Department. Mahoney was booked into the Renville County jail on three different occasions for driving while impaired convictions, most recently in 2006.

Jay Mahoney was also experiencing depression and may have been bipolar, family members told the Rev. Paul Van De Crommert, pastor of St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Olivia, where the family worships.

Father Van De Crommert said that the family was in shock over the events, but is receiving support.

The parish priest described Jay Mahoney as a soft-spoken person who had worked at the church in the past as part of community service obligations. His parents had been urging their son to obtain chemical dependency treatment, and the family was concerned about his mental well-being.

Mahoney was believed to have been drinking just prior to coming to his parents' home and surprising his father by pulling out a gun, according to what law enforcement officers have been able to piece together of the incident.

Jay Mahoney had been living in an apartment in Olivia. Mahoney had recently told an acquaintance that he felt he needed to move away from his hometown, according to Mayor Miller.

Mahoney had been employed most recently as a custodian in the BOLD elementary school in Bird Island. BOLD School Board members acted at their meeting last Thursday to approve a leave of absence for Mahoney, effective Sept. 16 through Oct. 30, according to Superintendent Mike Funk.

Robert Mahoney's death stunned his co-workers with the Renville County Highway Department, according to Marlin Larson, public works director. Mahoney was a motor grader operator with the county shop in Morton. He began employment with the county Highway Department as a seasonal worker in 1999 and had been a full-time employee since January 2002.

He was part of a four-person crew in Morton. Larson noted that the workers know each other well and that other county employees were similarly shocked and saddened by the death. The county is offering assistance to workers to cope with the loss.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Crime Scene Unit responded to the scene. The bodies were transported to the Twin Cities for autopsy, according to information from the Olivia Police.

The type of weapon involved or other details were not released.

The last recorded murder in Olivia occurred on Aug. 1, 2001. Santos Martinez Jr., 27, is serving a 306-month sentence for the shotgun killing of Tom Gutierrez, 36, during an argument over beer.