Murder-Suicide Rattles Salisbury University Students

SALISBURY — Shock and sadness pervade the Salisbury University community and the city this week after an off-campus murder-suicide claimed the lives of two victims and left a female student clinging to life at Shock Trauma in Baltimore.
Around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, law enforcement officers from the Salisbury Police Department, the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Department and the Maryland State Police responded to a residence on Olney Rd. in Salisbury following a 911 call of shots fired at the location. Upon arrival, law enforcement officers found three occupants of the residence suffering from gunshot wounds.
The preliminary investigation revealed the suspect, later identified as Ryan Justin Shallue, 21, of Stevensville, was a former boyfriend of the female victim, identified as Kristen Renee Loetz, 20, a Salisbury University student. Shallue had traveled from Queen Anne’s County to Salisbury on Tuesday evening. When Shallue arrived at the Olney Rd. residence on Tuesday, an argument ensued between Shallue and Loetz.
A third individual, identified as Charles Jacob “CJ” Abbott, 19, of Hebron, attempted to intervene in the altercation when Shallue produced a semi-automatic handgun and opened fire on the victims. Abbott was transported by ambulance to PRMC, but was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Loetz was transported to PRMC where she was stabilized before being flown to the University of Maryland Show Trauma Center for treatment of multiple gunshot wounds.
After shooting Loetz and Abbott, Shallue turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. He was pronounced dead at the scene. As of late Thursday, Loetz was listed in critical, but stable condition. According to Salisbury University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach, Loetz may be able to stand and walk as early as next week and was able to write to her mother that she loved her.
On Wednesday, more than 600 students, faculty members, staff and friends gathered on the SU campus for a candlelight vigil supporting Loetz and the two other individuals who perished in the incident. During speeches, faculty, friends and fellow students praised Loetz for her character, compassion and intellect. Abbott was also remembered for his heroism while trying to protect her. Dudley-Eshbach said the incident illustrates how the SU campus is not insulated from the growing epidemic of domestic and relationship violence among young people.
“Our prayers and condolences go out to the families and friends of those impacted by last night’s tragic off-campus shooting,” she said. “Sadly, relationship violence is a national issue and our campus is not immune to it. Let us hope for Kristen’s full recovery and healing for all the family members and friends of these three individuals.”
As the news of the tragic murder-suicide began trickling out late Tuesday and into mid-week, SU opened its counseling centers for grieving students.
“This terrible news is shocking and I remind our students that they are not alone in their feelings,” Dudley-Eshbach said. “The Counseling Center is open for those seeking comfort and guidance. We are a caring community and I know we will support one another following this tragedy.”
Meanwhile, the city of Salisbury also extended its condolences to the friends and families of the victims and vowed to support the university as it deals with the tragedy.
“The senseless violence that has claimed two lives is horrific and incomprehensible,” said Mayor James Ireton, Jr.. “The families of the dead and wounded are in our citizens’ thoughts and prayers. The wasted potential and loss of life will never be fully counted. Salisbury, its citizens and employees of the city stand ready to assist Salisbury University and the Olney Rd. community in any way we can.”
Salisbury Council President Jake Day also weighed in on the tragic shootings the heroism that followed.
“When tragedy strikes, we are afforded the opportunity to see not only the darkness in our world, but heroism, courage, love and empathy,” he said. “Today, we can reflect on the bravery of the police officers and paramedics who selflessly entered into a dangerous situation and the young man who tried to protect his friend. Tomorrow, we will marvel at the bravery, love and compassion of our community, our city and our university.”