Family was shot in murder-suicide minutes before being evicted from foreclosed home, sheriff says

New details released in Clermont County murder-suicide
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 6:17 AM EST
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CLERMONT COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX/Gray news) - Investigators believe Theresa Cain shot her family members, killing three of them, just minutes before deputies arrived to serve them with eviction papers and they were put out of their foreclosed home, Sheriff Steve Leahy said Thursday.

The eviction was the culmination of a long history of financial problems for the family and appears to be the motive of the murder-suicide that left a total of four relatives dead and a fifth fighting for her life, he said.

“It is tragic and unnecessary,” Leahy said. “’What can we do to keep this from happening again?’ Well, I’m just not that sure that we can. When people are in crisis, it’s not as easy as just reaching out and saying, ‘I need help.’ They are spiraling. Nothing makes sense.

“What we see here, you can’t make sense of this. Murder is a senseless thing, but then you throw in suicide and the homicide of your family. It’s all very sad. This lady had been totally cooperative the entire time. "

[4 dead, 1 critical after potential murder-suicide in Clermont County, sheriff says]

When deputies pulled up to the family home on Riebel Ridge Road in Ohio Township around 9:40 a.m. Monday, Theresa Cain was standing on the patio outside, the sheriff said.

Deputies expected no issues. They had checked with her before Monday to ensure all would go smoothly.

She told them she still had a few things left to pack and requested a few extra hours but would be ready by 10 a.m.

She also assured deputies the family had a place to go.

But as soon as she saw them approaching, she quickly went inside, the sheriff said. One of the deputies thought that was weird and immediately knocked on the front and then back doors.

No one answered.

The deputy stepped inside the home and called out to her, announcing the sheriff’s office was there.

He heard a muffled “No, no, no, no,” the sheriff recalled, followed by a quick succession of gunfire.

She fired five gunshots, ones they now believe were meant to keep deputies away - and then turned the gun on herself.

Deputies found her dead inside, along with her 13-year-old son, Ethan Cain; her husband, Steven Cain, 50, and her 74-year-old father, William Felton.

Samantha Cain, 20, was critically hurt and remains in critical condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Not a thing was packed, leading investigators to believe Theresa Cain hid the eviction from her family right up until she killed them, the sheriff said.

Detectives found a .38-caliber revolver they believe Theresa Cain used to kill her husband first.

He was found on a downstairs sofa.

The others, including Theresa Cain, were found upstairs.

The sheriff said their investigation determined the victims were awake when they were killed and likely were aware of what was happening.

They also believe Theresa Cain shot them just minutes before deputies arrived.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is now tracing the weapon to see who owned it.

“You would think,” the sheriff said, “there would be resources for someone like them, but I think she kept this a very close secret. Hopefully, Samantha recovers and can help fill in some blanks.”

In May 2022, Freedom Mortgage Corporation foreclosed on the home the family lived in since moving to the area from Connecticut in 2015, according to court filings and the sheriff.

It was sold at a sheriff’s sale last fall back to the mortgage company, who hired a crew to remove the family’s belongings from the property, county officials said.

The tragedy has hit the community and New Richmond School District hard.

Both Cain children attended New Richmond schools. Samantha Cain graduated from New Richmond High School, and Ethan Cain was a student at New Richmond Middle School.

Counselors have been at the schools all week.

The middle school students are lovingly memorializing Ethan with handwritten notes and pictures that fill a bulletin board in the hallway.

Superintendent Tracey Miller was at the middle school again Thursday, talking with students at dismissal time.

“Today was more normal than yesterday and yesterday was more normal than the day before,” he said. “It will get better day by day. They had a ‘Wear Blue Day for Ethan Day” yesterday. And they are still adding to the bulletin board.

“I think the hardest thing is we’ll always have that question: could we have seen something? Is there something we could have done to make a difference in that family’s life? And we’ll just never know.”

He said Ethan was a “little bit quiet but a nice, polite young man. He was very conscientious. He just really wanted to do a good job on his assignments and get them all done, and he made sure they were done. He would get upset with himself and (his teachers) would say ‘That’s OK. We’ll make this work.

“He took over a piece of people’s hearts here at the middle school. There was no shortage of Ethan stories. You just talk and remember some of the better times, and the importance of taking care of your loved ones. Nobody’s promised tomorrow. Look out for each other.”

Samantha’s sorority sisters at Northern Kentucky University established a GoFundMe account to help pay for her medical care.

Some of the New Richmond School District student groups are going to get behind the fund, the superintendent says.

“Samantha currently remains in critical condition in the hospital, and we would like to try and raise money for any expenses that she might face when she wakes up,” one of the Go Fund Me organizers, Kalie Clark, wrote on the page.

“Any donations and prayers that you can offer are greatly appreciated as we want to do everything that we can to be there for her during this time. Thank you.”

So far, more than $21,000 has been raised toward the $25,000 goal.

Many donations are in small amounts, from $5 and up. The top donor, who is anonymous, gave $1,000.

An Amelia coffee shop and its workers also helped out: $200 from “Annette DiTommaso and the Team at BIGGBY Amelia” and $100 from “Mills Family Biggby Coffee Stores.”

Clark thanked everyone in the latest update on the GoFundMe page.

“We are overwhelmed and overjoyed with the amount of support being given to Samantha! While she is still in the hospital and listed under critical condition, we know that once she wakes up this will mean so incredibly much to her.

“We are still unsure of what exactly happened as Samantha has not been conscious thus far, however, we are just extremely grateful to see the community come together and support her in this way. Our goal is to raise as much money for her as possible for her to use for whatever expenses she will face once she is awake as her life will have been changed completely. Please continue to share this link for donations, please continue to pray for this sweet girl, and please continue to give what you can.”

Steven Cain was known as the lead singer of a local band, “Critical Khaos, which plays groove/thrash metal music, according to the band’s website.

Editor’s note: Help is available for those in distress. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support.