Investigators ruled that the November fatal fire in a remote area of Lewis County was started by the mother after killing her two young children before taking her own life.
Lewis County deputy sheriff Robert Ryan said during a Thursday press conference at the courthouse that evidence obtained following the Nov. 12 incident revealed that 32-year-old Beth Ann Kraus shot her two children, 5-year-old Kaden and 3-year-old Kiera, then started a fire in an old barn on their Alum Bridge residence before turning the gun on herself.
Ryan said the investigators believe the events took place sometime between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Nov. 11. Kraus' husband returned home from working a midnight shift on the morning of Nov. 12 to discover the grisly scene. Ryan said Kraus' whereabouts on Nov. 11 have been confirmed as part of the investigation.
Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Gary Morris said a letter from Beth Ann Kraus to an unidentified person contained money and made references to Beth Ann Kraus' state of mind prior to the fatal events.
"It did not state that she intended to kill herself or her children," Morris said. "It indicated she was severely distressed. In conjunction with her medical records, that led us to conclude her state of mind."
Morris would say only that the medical records came from a clinic where she was being treated for an unspecified condition.
"I probably shouldn't say anything more than that due to (privacy) laws," he said.
Morris said there appeared to be some difficulties at the Kraus' home, but nothing that had ever involved law enforcement.
"There was a difficult domestic situation, not domestic violence," Morris said. "But there was evidence their marriage was in jeopardy."
Ryan said investigators "don't know the answer" as to why Beth Ann Kraus committed these acts. He said the husband could shed no light on that subject.
"He believed everything to be OK when he left the residence," Ryan said.
The barn where the events occurred was about 100 yards from the Kraus' residence on Crooked Run Road, cloaked in a cove and out of sight of the main road. Two lighters were recovered at the scene, and the fire accelerated through the structure because of the amount of loose hay and the old wood.
The state Fire Marshal's Office also assisted in the investigation, helping comb through the burned debris for evidence.
"This has been very difficult for all of the officers involved in this investigation," Ryan said.