Inside the Mystery of the Delta State Shooting

Shannon Lamb's motive remains unclear, though there were hints of trouble
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 16, 2015 6:03 AM CDT
Inside the Mystery of the Delta State Shooting
Liz Schmidt, widow of Delta State University history professor Ethan Schmidt, who was murdered by a colleague in his office Monday, left, is comforted by friends, Jenn Westmoreland, center and Amy Cotrell, prior to a candlelight memorial in his honor on the Cleveland, Miss., campus, Tuesday, Sept. 15,...   (Rogelio V. Solis)

Shannon Lamb's motive for fatally shooting his girlfriend and a university colleague remains largely a mystery: The Mississippi university instructor had no criminal record, he was a well-liked teacher, and police said there was no history of domestic violence between him and Amy Prentiss. Victim and fellow Delta State University professor Ethan Schmidt himself had included Lamb in a book he wrote where he acknowledged the "wonderful people" he shared his academic life with. And yet there were some signs of trouble: Cleveland Police Chief Charles "Buster" Bingham said yesterday that authorities had some indication Lamb and Schmidt did not get along at work. A student who praised Lamb said the professor also seemed agitated and jittery, "like there was something wrong with him."

Lamb also had asked the university for a medical leave of absence, saying he had a health issue of some sort, per the university's president. (Bingham said Lamb had told some people that he had a spider bite on his face, which sparked the request for medical leave.) This year, he was only teaching two online classes, and recent changes in the university's hiring policies meant the doctorate Lamb had worked so hard to earn would not guarantee him an automatic tenure track. Nonetheless, authorities have not been able to identify any one major factor that would have driven Lamb to shoot two people and then kill himself. "We're talking about a guy who was highly dedicated to his [two] children and to his students," says a former student who Lamb helped find a scholarship so she could stay in school. "Without him I wouldn't have made it through college." (Lamb left behind a note.)

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