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Sheriff: Homicide/suicide in Arco

RTR student, 2017 graduate found inside home with gunshot wounds

ARCO — Law enforcement officials are treating the deaths of a Russell-Tyler-Ruthton School District student and 2017 graduate as a homicide and a suicide.

According to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to a 911 call just before 2 a.m. on Saturday regarding two people who had been shot at a rural Arco home. The deputies located the two deceased individuals inside a bedroom on County Road 111.

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension identified the deceased males as 19-year-old Jacob Peterson and 18-year-old Christian Muecke.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner reported that Peterson, the 2017 graduate, died of homicide due to a gunshot wound, while Muecke, a current senior, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A shotgun was recovered at the scene.

The sheriff’s department said the investigation into the incident is ongoing and investigators believe there is no ongoing threat to the public.

The school district sent out an email on Sunday alerting parents of “a terrible tragedy” that resulted in the deaths of two young people.

“Our hearts go out to these two families and I know that the complete RTR school community will reach out to support them in their most difficult time of need,” RTR Superintendent Dave Marlette said in the email.

On Monday afternoon after the sheriff’s department declared the case as a homicide and a suicide, Marlette told the Independent in a phone conversation the deaths have hit the school district hard.

“It’s been pretty sad here today,” Marlette said. “It was a staff development day, so we didn’t have all of the students here, but they will be coming back (today). We have a crisis team and we have counselors from around the area who are helping us. I don’t know what we’d do without them.”

Marlette said he anticipates that the support staff will remain in the district through the week at least.

“We had the crisis team here (Monday), helping with staff,” he said. “Some of the students came in for help, too. We have a crisis plan in place, but we met very early this morning to put our crisis plan into operation. We need to keep it as normal as possible, but any students who need to see a counselor or staff, all they need to do is let us know and we’ll get them in front of people. That’s what we’ll do all week.”

Marlette said that in addition to supporting the students and staff, support is being directed toward the families of the two teens.

“Both of these kids have brothers and cousins here,” Marlette said. “So we’re here to support the families and to support our students and teachers. We’ll get through this together. Our community is very strong. They’ll step forward and help the families and everyone else get through this.”

In a news release to parents in the district, Marlette said the unfortunate incident is a reminder that parents and schools need to band together to increase awareness of potential warning signs of students who may be struggling and then to seek positive solutions to those problems.

Marlette also pointed out to parents that their child may experience many different feelings and that they may want to share those with them.

“Listening to your son or daughter is the best way to help them through this difficult time,” he said. “Two important messages to share with your child are: one, all of us should seek help from others when we are feeling down or hurting and two, young people should always tell an adult if they are worried about a friend hurting himself/herself or others. Sharing this type of information is not breaking a secret but potentially saving a life.”

Grief resource links with additional information are being added to the RTR School website at http://www.rtrschools.org.

Marlette encouraged people in the district — where there has been recent conflict regarding the future of facilities and whether or not to build a new pre-K through 12th grade school in Tyler — to take a step back despite the pair of meetings that are scheduled this week. A referendum vote is slated for Feb. 12.

“This election doesn’t seem very important today,” Marlette said.

Visitation for Peterson will be held from 4-8 p.m. Thursday at Hamilton Funeral Home in Marshall. A memorial service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday at Grace First Parish in Russell.

Visitation for Muecke is from 4-8 p.m. Friday at First English Lutheran Church in Tyler. The funeral service begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at First English Lutheran Church in Tyler.

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