Soldier killed wife, daughter, then shot himself, police say

James Halpin

A Fort Richardson soldier recently back from Afghanistan shot and killed his wife and 8-month-old baby before turning the gun on himself in a failed suicide attempt, Anchorage police said Tuesday.

Preliminary autopsy findings revealed Spc. Kip Lynch, a 21-year-old military policeman, was the person responsible for the double homicide discovered Monday morning at the family's South Anchorage apartment, police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said.

After killing his family, Lynch shot himself in the head, according to police. He remained hospitalized in critical condition on Tuesday with injuries that have precluded him from communicating with detectives.

The carnage was found Monday morning after two military police officers went to the apartment to find out why Lynch had failed to report to work. They knocked on the door of his home in the 9900 block of William Jones Circle and got no answer, so a landlord let them in about 7:30 a.m., police said.

They found the bodies of Lynch's wife, 19-year-old Racquell Lynch -- who goes by Kellie -- and the couple's daughter, 8-month-old Kyirsta Lynch, both of whom had been shot.

"It was horrifying, just horrifying," Parker said. "I just can't understand that kind of behavior."

Anchorage police arriving on scene later discovered Kip Lynch critically injured with a gunshot wound at another location in the apartment in an eight-plex. He was rushed to Providence Alaska Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery for life-threatening injuries.

Kip Lynch, of Jacksonville, Fla., serves with the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, at Fort Richardson and just two months ago returned from the brigade's year-long deployment in Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.

He met Kellie, his long-time girlfriend, at First Coast High School, where he played football, said Diana Oliver, a 55-year-old friend of the family from Jacksonville. After graduating, Lynch joined the Army in September 2007 and went to boot camp at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

"He really liked the regimen behind it and the discipline. He loved it," Oliver said. "It was very difficult for (Kellie) to have him gone."

Lynch arrived at Fort Richardson in March 2008. He married Kellie amid snow-covered trees in an outdoor ceremony in Alaska on Feb. 7, 2009, according to Kellie's MySpace page. Lynch deployed to Afghanistan with the 4/25th the same month, though Oliver said he was able to come back for a while when Kyirsta was born -- on Aug. 15, 2009.

Kellie Lynch stayed at home in Jacksonville while her husband was deployed, Oliver said.

Lynch was in the brigade's Special Troops Battalion and based in the Khost Province of Afghanistan during the deployment, said Maj. Bill Coppernoll, a spokesman for U.S. Army Alaska.

"He was assigned as a gunner while conducting mounted patrols," Coppernoll said. "He was performing duties as a military policeman: Providing security, going on patrols, doing routine military police duties while in combat."

The brigade suffered 12 combat deaths in the deployment, but it wasn't clear Tuesday whether Lynch saw any action. There was no record of Lynch being injured in combat, Coppernoll said.

All the returning soldiers went through a reintegration process and also were part of a test of a new mental health program Army officials say was designed to decrease the stigma of post-combat mental-health problems, he said.

The Virtual Behavioral Health Assessment asked soldiers to describe their experiences in a questionnaire, including any traumatic brain injury they might have suffered, then enter a booth for a private video conference with a mental health professional, who can refer the soldier to a counsellor or therapist.

Army officials, however, wouldn't say on Tuesday how Lynch fared on the evaluation.

Kellie Lynch moved up to Anchorage with the baby shortly before he returned from war in February, Oliver said. They got the apartment together, and Lynch, along with the rest of his brigade, was off for block leave in April.

According to Kellie Lynch's MySpace page, the family used some of that time to take a vacation to Arizona and California, visiting Disneyland. Photos posted online as recently as last week show Kyirsta smiling from atop her father's shoulders, her name tattooed on his raised arm as they stood in a hot tub.

Then on Monday, police called the family and Kip Lynch's mother called Oliver, she said.

"There was nothing said on the phone," Oliver said. "All I heard was her crying and I knew something was wrong. When I got to the house I found out."

Kip Lynch's mother, Terri Lynch, of Jacksonville, was on her way to Anchorage on Tuesday. The family released a short statement through a family friend, Elizabeth Scarborough.

"We are still in shock and trying to figure out how to deal with this tragedy," the statement said. "Kip proudly served his country in the Army in Afghanistan and had just returned home. His family remembers him as a strong, spirited, good-humored and sweet young man. He loved his beautiful wife and daughter with all his heart. Words cannot express how much we will miss them."

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