Police won’t reveal the content’s of Lauren Stuart’s suicide note, but one friend believes she already knows the reason for the tragic murder-suicide.
As WXYZ News reports, Lauren Stuart appeared to be living a happy and fulfilled life. The 45-year-old mother of two was an aspiring model living in Keego Harbor, Michigan. Her two grown children were doing well, and her husband worked as a data solutions architect at the University of Michigan.Screenshot/Fox 2
But on February 16, a concerned relative called Keego Harbor police, asking them to do a welfare check at the Stuart home. Inside, officers found that Lauren had shot and killed 47-year-old husband Daniel, 27-year-old son Steven, 24-year-old daughter Bethany, and the family dog before turning the gun on herself.
Friends were stunned. From the outside, Lauren’s “bubbly” and positive personality gave no hint of personal turmoil. Her close friend Joyce Taylor told the Detroit Free Press she’d had coffee with Lauren just a week before; Lauren was excited about her husband’s new career opportunity:
“She was talking about the business he was hoping to get going, how much she was looking forward to it. We talked about that, our kids.”
When she heard about Lauren’s suicide and the triple murder a week later, Taylor was stunned. But she also believes she knows what drove her friend to despair.
The Stuart family had been practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses until about five years ago, when they decided to send their children to college. The religion frowns on college and as a result, the family was “shunned.” Taylor explained to the Free Press:
“They were shunned every way possible. If Lauren went to the grocery store, they didn’t look her in the eye. When you are raised a Jehovah’s Witness, they choose your friends. They choose who you associate with. And if you go against that, they will disfellowship you, or shun you.”
In the Stuart’s case, Taylor says that the local church was particularly harsh in the way the ostracized the family. She told Fox 2 News:
“The church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they were hog wild after them, just brutal.”
After being shunned by their church, Lauren appeared to have moved on. She began looking for modeling opportunities. Her children did well in college and began promising careers. But Taylor believes that the withdrawal of the church support left Lauren extremely vulnerable.
She can’t believe the “positive,” woman with such a “bubbly, quirky personality” is the same woman who killed her husband, 2 kids, then herself in Keego Harbor. One of Lauren Stuart’s photographers speaks with @FOX2News 5pm… pic.twitter.com/U5HCQWPnxc
— Erika Erickson (@FOX2Erika) February 20, 2018
She told Fox 2 that Lauren would have been cut off from family and friends if she needed to talk to someone:
“I can guarantee you straight on, if they were to have called their family, especially Danny, and if they recognized the phone number, they would not answer it.”
And while Taylor doesn’t know what drove Lauren over the edge, she told the Free Press that any personal problems she was dealing with would have been magnified by that sense of loneliness and isolation:
“She worshiped Danny. Danny worshiped her. They were like hand in glove. But she was very concerned about Dan. He was prone to depression and she was always worried about him.”
In fact, Taylor is so certain that the shunning was responsible for Lauren’s actions that she confronted the congregation at the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Union Lake, Michigan. As video taken at the time shows, after bursting into the service, Taylor stood on a chair, ignoring members’ efforts to get her to stop, and shouted:
“Excuse me everyone, My name is Joyce Taylor … Two days ago, four people died as a result of your shunning process. Five years ago you people pulled your support from this small family, the only support they had was you people. You turned them away and you shunned them.
For what? Because they wanted to raise their children as they saw fit.”
A former Jehovah’s Witness herself, Taylor has no doubt that religion is responsible for the deaths of Lauren and her family. It is the only way she can explain such a terrible tragedy in such a seemingly happy family. She told Fox 2:
“They were the nicest people, they would give their shirt off their back. That is how wonderful they were.”