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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Father Hunted In Deaths Boy Woke Up To Find Mother, Sister Killed

Winda Benedetti Craig Welch Contribut Staff writer

The search continued late Monday for an Athol man suspected of killing his wife and daughter.

Authorities believe Vern Henry, 44, shot the women multiple times in the middle of the night, then fled from their home along U.S. Highway 95.

The double murder occurred while three younger children were in the house.

The crime has confounded this small community as residents try to put the face of a monster on a man they knew as a friend.

“You wouldn’t believe it was the same person,” said Charlene Blanchard, who works in the local gas station/grocery store. “He must have just really, really flipped to do something like this.”

The Henry home is located on the east side of Highway 95 across from the Super G Maxi Mart and the mercantile.

Vern Henry lived there with his wife, Connie, 42; his daughter Heather, 18; and three children 12, 7 and 5 years old. Their oldest son has moved away from home.

“The family was always friendly,” said Scott Rothrock, 17, who had dated Heather for about a year. “Her dad was just super nice. He could just sit there and talk all night with me.”

The younger children were sleeping Monday when an argument erupted around 12:45 a.m., waking the 12-year-old boy, according to Kootenai County sheriff’s investigators.

The boy told investigators that his father was fighting with his mother and Heather. Sheriff’s Capt. Ben Wolfinger said the boy is unsure what they were fighting about.

Investigators believe that, during the argument, Henry got a gun and shot Connie and Heather.

The boy found his mother and sister lying on the living room floor and watched his father drive away in the family car. He then called 911.

When paramedics arrived, the 7-year-old also was awake. “The 5-year-old didn’t wake up until they were halfway out of the house - which is good,” Wolfinger said.

Monday morning, shocked friends arrived at the house. Some cried; some just stared at the home still littered with basketballs and bicycles.

“They were kind of quiet people,” said Del Orser, who used to rent a house to the family and attend Bible study with them. They have lived in the Athol area for about 10 years, he said.

Connie Henry often baby-sat children at the home.

Vern Henry did occasional backhoe work and ran an upholstery business from the house. Sometimes, he sold cars for people from his front lawn.

He was a regular at the Maxi Mart.

“Every morning, he’d come in, buy the paper and sit over there and have a cup of coffee or two,” said Blanchard, who works at the store.

On Sunday morning, Blanchard and Vern gabbed about good fishing holes.

“He was just in a really good mood,” Blanchard said.

“He was just a really mellow person,” she said, pausing and then adding, “He must not have been to shoot his wife and daughter.”

Heather Henry had worked summers in a game booth at Silverwood Theme Park for three seasons.

Pat Bondi-Near, Heather’s boss, said she was “one of the very special people.”

Heather was always willing to help, Bondi-Near said, and happily took on other jobs when asked.

“I would love to have any of my employees be like her,” she said. “She was always smiling and joyful.”

Heather graduated this year from Lakeland High School. She was taking a year off to save money for a car and college.

Both Bondi-Near and Rothrock said Heather never mentioned problems at home. Sheriff’s officials said there was no record of domestic violence in the home.

“The one question I want to know is why,” Rothrock said. “She was just a great person and didn’t deserve this at all.”

Kootenai County Sheriff’s officials ask that anyone with information on the shooting or Vern Henry’s location call (208) 664-1511. Vern Henry was last seen heading North on U.S. 95 in a late 1980s Toyota Camry with Idaho plates K112216. He is 5 feet 10 inches tall, 145 pounds with brown hair and a reddish brown beard.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 Color)

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Winda Benedetti Staff writer Staff writer Craig Welch contributed to this report.

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