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Doves released at funeral for children, mother dead in murder-suicide

By Ashley Hayes and Phil Gast, CNN
Funeral services will be Wednesday for Jasmine Abbott, 14, her brother and sister, and their mother.
Funeral services will be Wednesday for Jasmine Abbott, 14, her brother and sister, and their mother.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Thousands attend services for mother, three children
  • NEW: Neighbor, children's grandmother call Amanda Bennett good mother
  • Family spokesman says they are grateful for support
  • Police say Amanda Bennett killed her three children, then herself

See local coverage from CNN affiliates WRTV and WAVE.

(CNN) -- Four white doves were released Wednesday after funeral services for an Indiana woman and her three children, dead in what police describe as a murder-suicide.

Investigators believe Amanda Bennett, 30, shot her three children -- 14-year-old Jasmine Abbott, 9-year-old Katelynn Bennett and 4-year-old Ryan Bennett -- in their Austin, Indiana, home, set a small fire in the house and then turned the gun on herself.

Services were held at First Christian Church in nearby Scottsburg, Charlotte Bennett, the grandmother of two of the children, told CNN.

"There were thousands of people there," she said.

The caskets were taken out to the parking lot after the funeral. The song "Come to Jesus" was performed and the doves were released, she said. "It was an awesome [moment]."

Police conducting a welfare check on the family last Friday found the bodies. The family's dog was also shot, but it survived and was being treated at a veterinary clinic, Indiana State Police said.

The children were out of school on Friday because of a recent snowstorm, Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Jerry Goodin told CNN Wednesday. Investigators believe the children were asleep when they were shot, he said.

Indiana mom kills her three kids, self
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Friends told reporters Amanda and John Bennett, father of the two younger children, had marital problems. A divorce petition filed two weeks before the deaths, obtained by CNN affiliate WAVE, said the two had been separated since October. Amanda Bennett, in the petition, had asked for temporary custody of the children. Court filings show the couple had also declared bankruptcy in 2009, WAVE said.

The couple were supposed to be at divorce hearing this Friday, Charlotte Bennett said. Her son, John, was seeking joint custody of the children, she said.

The grandmother said Amanda lived with her a couple of years before dating John. "She was an awesome mother," Charlotte Bennett said.

Charlotte Bennett said she spoke with Amanda several hours before the bodies were found. "She seemed to be fine."

Jasmine was a typical teen girl who linked to primp and Katelynn was smart and loved everything, Charlotte Bennett said. "Ryan was all boy."

The two younger children were buried with their mother while Jasmine will be buried in another town where her father lives, Charlotte Bennett said. Jasmine was "like a daughter" to John Bennett, Charlotte said.

Thousands of people turned out Tuesday during a six-hour visitation for the four, according to CNN affiliate WRTV.

"I came out here to ... show my support for John and his family and to give them my prayers," Rhonda Jones told WAVE, referring to the father of the two youngest children.

"They had their whole lives in front of them," William Bellamy, who attended the visitation, told CNN affiliate WHAS of the children. "Their mom took the best part of their years, really ... because they could have turned out to be anything."

In a statement, family spokesman Roger Gay told WAVE, "We want to thank family, friends and the community for support and prayers through this tragedy. John is in shock and will be for a long time."

Charlotte Bennett echoed that sentiment, saying of her son, "He's kind of in shock. He lost his whole world."

Goodin told CNN that authorities examined online content as part of their investigation, including a posting purportedly from Amanda Bennett that blamed her husband.

"You got what you wanted," the posting said, according to CNN affiliate WDRB. "No wife and no kids."

However, the motive is unclear, and probably will remain that way, Goodin said. "The only person that knows the motive is Amanda," he said.

Austin is about 35 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.

A neighbor of the Bennetts told CNN Wednesday that Amanda was considerate of her and friendly.

"I don't see how she could have done it," said Ruby C. Gay. "It really upset me terrible. She was always good to the children."

"They were wonderful children and well-behaved," according to Gay, who said she used to give treats to the children.

CNN's Ashley Hayes contributed to this report.

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