A family in suburban Chicago is planning to bury three people this week after losing a young mother and her two daughters in an apparent murder-suicide.
Now, the girls’ grandmother is speaking out about the mom’s mental and physical condition before the incident.
On August 28, Celisa Kay Henning, 41, and her 5-year-old twin daughters, Makayla Ashley Henning and Addison Riley Henning, were found shot to death inside the bathroom of their family home.
As previously reported by Dearly, husband Steven Henning went home early from work around 3 p.m. when he couldn’t get in touch with Celisa. He reported the incident to the police.
A preliminary coroner’s report, published in the Chicago Tribune, revealed that the twins suffered from multiple gunshot wounds to the head, while Celisa had one.
The Joliet Police Department has been treating the investigation as a murder-suicide.
Then, three days after the incident, Norma Henning told NBC Chicago that Celisa hadn’t been the same since she was involved in a car crash on October 19, 2015.
According to the Daily Chronicle, Celisa had visited 20 or 30 doctors, including the Mayo Clinic, in order to manage her pain but told her family members that she was at her “wit’s end.” Norma explained to NBC:
“[Celisa] was in so much pain both physically and mentally. She was at the point, she couldn’t take it anymore.”
Coroner identifies mother as Celisa Henning, 41 & her twin girls Addison & Makayla, 6. Police believe mom shot & killed herself & her girls. pic.twitter.com/Jq1Af9KRo9
— Courtney Gousman (@cgousman) August 29, 2017
The grandmother refused to disclose the medical conditions that had troubled her daughter-in-law, but she had previously told NBC Chicago that Celisa had complained that her “body felt like it was on fire.”
The Northwest Herald reports that Celisa filed a lawsuit on August 11 against another woman in Joliet named Carol D. Salinas for damages from a car accident:
The lawsuit accused Salinas of causing Celisa Henning’s internal and external injuries of “permanent, lasting, disability and disfiguring nature to her body, mind, limbs and nervous system,” including a lumbar injury.
Even with the injuries, Norma told the Chronicle that nobody in the family suspected Celisa would be capable of shooting her daughters before turning the gun on herself:
“We never, never suspected something like this. None of us.”
She told the publication that her son, Steven, was “broken up over the tragedy” but that the family had forgiven Celisa for what she had done.
— Daily Southtown (@DailySouthtown) August 29, 2017
As reported by Dearly, many people were surprised that their friend and neighbor would be resort to this level of violence.
Dr. Carole Lieberman, a Beverly Hills forensic psychiatrist, explained to Hollywood Life that murder-suicides are not common but that compounding stress can lead parents to kill or injure their children:
“Increasingly often, parents kill their children when they are in the midst of a custody dispute. They don’t want their spouse to get custody of the child and they want to punish their spouse for the divorce. Some parents, who kill their child, are mentally ill and hear command hallucinations telling them to do it. And sometimes, when a parent is afraid they won’t be able to care for their child well enough anymore — because of financial, health or other problems — they rationalize that their child is better off dead. […] Parents who kill their kids snap when stress causes them to reach their breaking point.”
Deputy Joliet Police Chief Al Roechner told Patch that Celisa had not been receiving treatment for depression or other mental disorders. He encouraged anyone with suicidal thoughts to reach out and receive help:
“If anybody is going through anything, they need to realize they can call a helpline. Call somebody. Call me. I’ll help them. I’m being honest. This probably could have been prevented, maybe.”
If you or somebody you know is suffering from depression or are considering suicide, you can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline anytime at 1-800-273-TALK.
Roechner also noted that Celisa had left a note but that the police department will not be releasing its contents out of respect for the family. He told Patch:
“We’re not going to be commenting out of respect for the dad and the grandparents. There’s no reason to drag the family through the mud.”
The police chief indicated to Patch that the case is now wrapping up. Investigators are waiting for the forensic report to determine the ownership of the gun.
A funeral for all three family members is scheduled for September 6. The Chronicle reports that neighbors have been decorating the front yard in white ribbons, cards, and toys.
Steve has written a letter of thanks to the community for their support and left it on his front door.