Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An unspeakable tragedy in Faribault December 14, 2016

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used here for illustration purposes only.

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo used here for illustration purposes only and not photographed in the area of the current tragedy.

SOMETIMES INCOMPREHENSIBLE TRAGEDIES happen in life that defy understanding. Something so horrible that we can’t wrap our minds around reality. We wonder and weep and wish we would wake up and our world would be unchanged. The darkness gone, replaced by light.

In my community of Faribault, we are wondering this week. Wondering why an eight-year-old girl is dead, apparently shot by the man who was her legal guardian. Local police are calling the deaths of Lynnaya Stoddard-Espinoza and Ryan Perrizo, 33, an apparent murder-suicide. Their bodies were found Sunday afternoon inside their Faribault home. Both suffered gunshot wounds; a handgun was recovered next to Perrizo.

The deaths leave many unanswered questions. Mostly, why? Why did this happen?

Nearly three years ago, on January 31, 2014, Perrizo’s 39-year-old wife, Jodi, died following a sudden illness while vacationing in Florida, according to her obituary. And now these deaths. I can speculate. The police can speculate. The general public can speculate. But until the investigation is complete, we don’t have answers.

We have this fact: Two individuals are dead.

And we have a community affected by this unspeakable tragedy. I think mostly of the surviving families and then of little Lynnaya’s classmates at Faribault Lutheran School, the same school my three children attended. How do you explain Lynnaya’s violent death? How do you reassure and comfort and help these children cope? Can these kids even grasp what has happened? With an enrollment of around 100, Faribault Lutheran is a like a family. Lynnaya’s absence is real and children and adults—teachers, parents, grandparents—are hurting.

How do we as adults explain something we can’t even explain?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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22 Responses to “An unspeakable tragedy in Faribault”

  1. Almost Iowa Says:

    Murder-suicide… I get a twist in my gut whenever I hear of yet another incident. It hurts all the more when kids are involved.

    My wife and I lost a co-worker and a good friend to that. A friend of hers was breaking up with her boyfriend and asked for company while she retrieved her things. The boyfriend showed with a gun….

    • Greg, I am so sorry for the loss of your co-worker and a good friend through domestic violence. So whenever I write about that topic, you understand from a deeply personal level. The most dangerous time for any woman in an abusive relationship occurs when she tries to leave her abuser. He is losing control and…

      The father of a dear friend was murdered many years ago by an ex-con he’d befriended. It was difficult to watch her go through this grief and pain and to know how I could best help her and her family.

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        Audrey, while I agree with you about abusive situations, let me add a caution. People are emotional beings who are unpredictable in stressful situations. Even when there is no experience of abuse and control, people will still do crazy things. It is always best to take precautions. After a breakup, never return alone, always make sure the ex-partner is not there – and most law enforcement agencies would be glad to escort you if you feel you might be in danger.

      • Your advice is spot-on correct.

        And, yes, you are correct about people being unpredictable in emotional situations, whether in an abusive relationship or not. Thanks for adding that to the conversation.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    What a sad thing this is and so difficult to understand. I am praying for the family and the community.

  3. Dan Traun Says:

    I don’t think there is an explanation adequate enough to convey any amount of reason here. So tragic.

  4. Littlesundog Says:

    I am so sorry to hear this news. Sometimes there are no answers to help heal our wounds and sorrow. Hopefully the police will find some information that will help with understanding. My thoughts and prayers are with your community.

  5. Sudden death too often poses more questions than answers for the living! But the living must continue to ask why tragedies such as these occur so frequently. I’m sorry for your community’s grief and for all of those who knew them both.

  6. We heard this on MPR. So awful.

  7. Don Says:

    Oh what a tragedy this event is! Things like this put a crack in our individual comfort zones as we try to comprehend……………why?????????????? Prays to the family, friends, school mates and the town of Faribault.

  8. Jackie Says:

    I can never understand why they have to take their little ones, why not let THEM live after all what have they done to deserve death….so so sad. Sorry your community has to endure this senseless tragedy!

  9. Gunny Says:

    There is only one person who can answer that question – and they are no longer alive. Any death is heartbreaking to someone who cares regardless of whose death it is or for whatever reason that was the cause of the death.


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