Survivor of multiple slaying 'making sense,' sheriff says

MOUNT VERNON, S.D. -- Davison County Sheriff Lyle Swenson said today the lone survivor of a multiple slaying near Mount Vernon has been talking to authorities and 'he's making sense.'

But Swenson would not reveal what insight, if any, John Mathis, 30, could give police into the deaths Tuesday of his wife and two children.


The sheriff said authorities still remained baffled by the case.

He said Davison County has not had a murder since 1963. 'I don't care where it happens, how expert you are, this is the kind that really boggles the mind,' he said.

Swenson said it was the toughest case he has investigated. 'Shooting little kids just doesn't seem to make any sense,' he said.

Mathis remained hospitalized in Mitchell with an arm wound while police searched his farm for a small caliber weapon used in the slayings.

The bodies of Mathis' wife, Ladonna, 30, and his two sons, Brian, 4, and Patrick, 2, were found in their beds in the machine shed they used for a temporary home. All had been shot in the head.

The Mathis' house was destroyed by a fire and they were living in the machine shed while it was being rebuilt, Swenson said.


He said authorities would conduct another search of the Mathis farm in hopes of finding the weapon. He said authorities also would continue to interview Mathis and neighbors in the area.

'Maybe we'll find some rhyme and reason to something,' he said.

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