Zimmerman neighborhood in shock after mom, 2 kids found dead

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY and PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: April 1, 2013 - 9:33 PM

Authorities have not said how the three died in their house in Zimmerman. They stressed that there is no threat to the public.

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Officers were on the scene Monday at the Zimmerman home where a mother and her two children were found dead Sunday morning.

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The two young, red-haired children walked daily with their mother to the park. They played ball together. They walked the dog together.

On Monday, the three — Stephanie J. Shields, 35, her son, Nolan, 7, and daughter, Josephine, 6 — were identified as the people found dead in their home in Zimmerman by a relative on Easter morning.

No suspects are being sought, Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott said Monday. No arrests have been made, he said.

“There is no imminent threat to the public,” Brott said. Neighbors said they were told by authorities that they have nothing to fear.

Officials have yet to say what led to the deaths. Autopsy results were pending Monday evening from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s office, where the bodies were taken.

Preliminary results or further information was not expected to be released until at least Tuesday, Brott said. The deaths have yet to be classified as homicide, suicide or accidental.

Shields’ husband and the children’s father, Mark Shields, moved out of the house last week, Brott said.

The bodies were found Sunday morning by a relative at the family’s home in the 13300 block of 5th Avenue S.

In the neighborhood

Some of the neighbors who spoke to the Star Tribune on Monday said that they didn’t know the Shields family, but that you couldn’t miss the two red-haired children as they walked to a neighborhood park with their Boston terrier, Scout.

Stephanie Shields, a runner, could be seen jogging through the neighborhood or pictured in her running gear on the family Facebook page with her kids. They played baseball together, neighbors said.

The swing set in the corner yard and the boat in the driveway hinted at an active life. On Monday, the last day of spring break for local schools, the swing set remained still. The small pet dog was in the care of a neighbor. And those who knew the Shields family were trying to make sense of the loss.

“Nolan was such a nice kid, a really good kid,” said Ariana Johnson, 15, a Zimmerman High School student who said she helped the second-grader with his reading as part of a school project.

The neighbor caring for the family’s dog called Stephanie Shields “a wonderful mother” and said that “she centered her life around those children.”

Curt Tenold, another neighbor, said he didn’t know the family, “but you couldn’t miss them walking to the park almost every day.”

Community mourns

Stephanie Shields worked in the human resources department at Fairview Health Services. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Shields family for their tremendous loss,” read a statement from the company.

The children attended Zimmerman Elementary School, and district officials said grief counselors would be available to students. “Josephine Shields and her brother Nolan were part of our Zimmerman Elementary School family and we are deeply saddened,” Principal Susan Johnston said in a statement.

Mark Shields is a sergeant first class in the Minnesota National Guard, Maj. Kristen Auge confirmed on Monday.

The readiness noncommissioned officer for the 850th Horizontal Engineer Company in Cambridge, Minn., Mark Shields has been serving in the Guard since late 1989 and was deployed to Iraq from September 2004 to November 2005.

Auge added, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.”

Neighbor Michael Calva, 30, said Monday morning that he was “just blown away” by the deaths at the Shields home. “This is just a typical, quiet home, the home where you’d never expect anything like this to happen,” he added.

Calva said that when he came home from church Sunday, after the bodies were discovered, a law enforcement officer at the scene told him that the deaths were suspicious but that there was nothing for him to worry about.

plevy@startribune.com • 612-673-4419 pwalsh@startribune.com • 612-673-4482

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  • Ariana Johnson, 15, knew one of the Shields children. The house where the mother and two children died is in the background.

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