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'They don't deserve this'

September 05, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - Pierangelo Beltrami was alone Monday afternoon at a makeshift memorial for two Shepherd University students who were shot to death Saturday afternoon by their father.

Seated on a bicycle he had been riding through the area, Beltrami prayed for an extended period of time at the memorial beside Thacher Hall. He obviously was shaken.

"I just wanted to offer a prayer because they were innocent kids," said Beltrami, who has two children who attend Shepherd. "No matter what they've done, they don't deserve this."

Beltrami joined area residents and students Monday trying to make sense of the shooting, wondering how it could have happened in Shepherdstown, and questioning their safety.

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Logan P. Pennington, 26, and Benjamin M. Pennington, 24, were killed Saturday at 2:04 p.m. in the parking lot between Thacher Hall and the Butcher Center, police said. Douglas W. Pennington, 49, then shot himself to death, police said.

Police have not released a motive for the shooting, and said Monday they still need to do more investigating before commenting.

An autopsy on Douglas Pennington has been completed, and it was determined that the father died of a gunshot wound to the chest, Sgt. E.D. Anderson said.

Autopsies on the sons were expected to be completed Monday in Charleston, W.Va., Anderson said.

Anderson said investigators have talked to family members of the Penningtons about a possible motive for the shootings, and police still are "chasing down avenues of information," Anderson said.

"We have to cover all the bases before we say anything else," Anderson said.

Beltrami prayed at a memorial along a curb in a grassy area between two parking areas beside Thacher Hall. The memorial has included about a dozen luminarias and flowers on the ground next to them. On Monday, a white candle also was burning at the site.

Beltrami and others said they could not imagine what would make a father shoot his two sons. Beltrami said he wanted to pray at the memorial in hopes of bringing some kind of content to the hearts of Logan and Benjamin Pennington.

"We're all one big family," Beltrami said. "We're all children of God."

In downtown Shepherdstown, the streets were full of tourists checking out retail shops and dining establishments.

Because many of the people were from out of town, a lot of them were unaware of the shootings, business owners said.

Cassie Bosely, who was sitting outside of the Shepherdstown Outback Basics store where she works, said the effects of the shooting could have been worse had it happened when the campus was busier.

The shooting occurred when many students were away for the Labor Day weekend. Bosely said the shooting could have had disturbing effects on students if large numbers of them had seen it.

"We just don't deal with that kind of violence," Bosely said, referring to the local community.

Brenda Phillips, who works at the Lullaby Lu shop on German Street, said most people in town she has talked to feel sorry for the family of Logan and Benjamin Pennington.

"It's just one of those things," Phillips said. "Who knows what makes people do what they do?"

Arielle Bayer graduated from Shepherd University in December, and she knew Benjamin Pennington well. Bayer said she got to know Benjamin Pennington because her roommate dated him.

Bayer said she could not think of a reason for the shooting.

"He really didn't talk about his family much," Bayer said.

Students began trickling back to campus Monday afternoon after the Labor Day weekend. They had varying reactions to the shootings.

Sierra Collins, a freshman, said she heard about the shooting from a friend who called her and was "freaking out" about it. Collins said it was kind of frightening to come back, adding that she often walks on the campus alone.

Student Brandon Smith said he couldn't believe it happened.

"I still like the school," Smith said. "That could happen anywhere."

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