your connection to The Boston Globe

Iowa man is charged with killing parents, three sisters at home

BONAPARTE, Iowa -- A 22-year-old man has been charged with murdering his parents and three teenage sisters early Saturday at their home in southeastern Iowa, the local sheriff's office announced yesterday.

The suspect, Shawn Bentler, is accused of gunning down five family members and faces five counts of first-degree murder, the Van Buren County sheriff's office said.

Bentler is being held in lieu of a $2.5 million bond at the Adams County jail in Quincy, Ill., authorities said.

The victims were found early Saturday near Bonaparte, according to the sheriff's office.

They were identified as Michael Bentler, 53; his wife, Sandra, 47; and their daughters, Sheena, 17; Shelby, 15; and Shayne, 14. Investigators determined that they all died from gunshot wounds.

The sheriff's office said it received a 911 call from Shayne Bentler at 3:38 a.m. Saturday.

She told the dispatcher that her brother was ``going to do something," authorities said.

According to sheriff's documents regarding the 911 tape, a gunshot is heard in the background and someone screams, ``Shawn, no!" The line then goes dead, the documents say.

Authorities said they received a second 911 call at the same time from the cellphone of Sandra Bentler. That call went unanswered.

Bentler was arrested Saturday in Quincy, about 60 miles from the family's home, on an unrelated charge of possession of drug paraphernalia, according to the Adams County Sheriff's Office.

Officials will move to extradite Bentler from Illinois to Van Buren County.

Earlier yesterday, at St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church in Farmington, where the Bentler family worshiped, some parishioners wiped away tears as they knelt to pray, while others sat transfixed, their hands on their faces or clasped in prayer.

``You saw this in the Amish country when those girls were shot, and now it's in our backyard," youth minister Mike Linnenbrink said, referring to the shooting deaths of five girls at an Amish school in Pennsylvania.

``It's not surprising at all that we turn to church at this time," he said. ``This is a tight community, not just in Van Buren County, but in all of southeast Iowa."

The Bentler girls -- a freshman, a sophomore, and a senior -- attended Harmony High School. School officials said they will have counselors available today to speak with grieving students.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives