116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Mitchell Haferbecker was on administrative leave from College Community School before killing his wife and a family dog and taking his own life.
Cedar Rapids police on Wednesday confirmed the two bodies found at 731 Memorial Drive SE Tuesday morning were Mitchell, 45, and Sherry Haferbecker, 44, two custodians at College Community Schools. However, what led to the homicide - the first of 2015 in the city - remains unknown to the public.
'The reason why Mitch Haferbecker may have shot his wife and then took his own life would be speculative at this point in the investigation,” said Greg Buelow, Cedar Rapids public safety spokesman.
Buelow said a note was found at the home. However, the contents of that letter will not be released.
Police on Tuesday said they received a 911 hang-up call from the residence around 4 a.m. that day. Minutes later, the Joint Communications Agency took a phone call from a man on the cellphone who provided the Memorial Drive address and hung up. When attempts were made to call the man back, the calls went directly to voice mail, police said.
Officers went to the residence, but did not enter it, police said. The house was dark and there was no answer at the door.
'Officers made several attempts to contact any occupants by knocking on doors and windows and there was no response,” Buelow said in an email. 'Nothing appeared out of the ordinary.”
Police did not return to the house until about four hours later.
Around 8 a.m., the School Resource Officer at College Community Schools was notified that Sherry Haferbecker did not come to work that morning. The officer was also told that Mitchell Haferbecker had been placed on administrative leave. At this time, it is unclear why Haferbecker had been placed on administrative leave or when that began.
'All we are going to confirm was he was on administrative leave,” said Steve Doser, College Community Communications Director, in an email. He later added that 'at no time were students or staff at risk.”
With that information, police decided to return to the residence and enter the home. Officers then discovered the Haferbecker's, both dead from gunshot wounds. A family dog was also found shot inside the residence, Buelow said.
Police said Wednesday that they believe Mitchell Haferbecker used a handgun to kill Sherry and the dog and then himself. A second dog, which is used as a therapy dog at College Community Schools, was unharmed, police said.
Mitchell Haferbecker had a purchase permit through the Linn County Sheriff's Office from Jan. 17, 2001 to June 17, 2002, but no current permit, according to Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner.
In an earlier interview Wednesday, Doser said the Haferbeckers were both employed by the district for approximately 15 years. Mitchell worked at Prairie Heights Elementary School and Sherry worked at Prairie Hill Elementary School.
Doser said faculty and students are still struggling with the Haferbeckers' sudden deaths.
'It's a devastating loss for the school community,” he said.
In addition to her custodial duties, Doser said Sherry was also the handler of Primos, a therapy dog at the school. The Haferbeckers owned Primos, a black Labrador, Doser said. Therapy dogs are used at the school as a reward, to help with social anxiety or address behavioral issues in the classrooms.
'They live and stay with the staff member,” Doser said.
Primos was returned to the school and has continued with its regular schedule. The dog has been placed with a district employee while the district determines a permanent placement, Doser said.
District counselors and the Grant Wood Area Education Agency Critical Incident Stress Management team is supporting teachers and students this week, Doser said.
'It's a tragedy,” he said. 'It's devastating here for our kids and teachers.”