A professor who may have turned executioner is dead after a frantic Mississippi manhunt.
Authorities say Shannon Lamb, 45, killed himself Monday night after shooting and killing his girlfriend inside their bayou home, then driving almost six hours to the college where he taught and murdering a fellow faculty member. The geography and social science teacher at Delta State University was the primary suspect in the murders of Amy Prentiss and Ethan Schmidt, cops in Cleveland, Mississippi, confirmed to The Daily Beast.
Authorities descended on the home Lamb and Prentiss, 41, shared in Gautier, Mississippi, after Lamb himself allegedly dialed local authorities and alerted them to the murderous scene just before 10:30 a.m.
That was almost half an hour before Lamb allegedly gunned down his second victim. “He reported it to the [Gautier] cops on the coast at that time,” Dispatcher Cliff Logan said in a phone interview.
Logan said an armed Lamb, who had been “on personal leave” from the university for unknown reasons, took a green SUV believed to belong to Prentiss and tracked down Ethan Schmidt, a 39-year-old history professor and father, before fatally squeezing the trigger. “It was inside [Schmidt’s] classroom and it was close,” Logan said, referring to the distance that Lamb allegedly stood from his helpless victim.
Lamb then ditched the SUV in favor of a black Dodge Avenger, Logan said. He noted that the weapon the teacher used in the second murder was believed to be a pistol, but forensic work still needed to be completed to determine the make and model.
The history professor’s alleged murderous rampage sent some 5,000 students and faculty on lockdown after text messages—sent out by the school—began circulating, alerting everyone that a live shooter was on campus.
SWAT teams and other law enforcement personnel flooded the school grounds to apprehend the assailant.
But for hours Lamb managed to elude capture despite an extensive dragnet that was cast to bring him into custody.
He apparently told authorities, according to The Clarion Journal, that he didn’t want to go to jail, elevating worries that the instructor was suicidal.
A memo put out by cops, reported in The Sun Herald, warned fellow law enforcement agencies to “use extreme caution” when attempting to track Lamb down.
During a late night press conference Monday, Cleveland Police Chief Charles “Buster” Bingham confirmed that Lamb ran out of road to keep running and that he ultimately kept his promise to avoid prison by committing suicide.
At about 10 p.m. the wanted professor was spotted behind the wheel of a dark Avenger as it approached a checkpoint in Greenville, Mississippi.
“As one of the units pulled up behind the suspect, [Lamb] pulled off to the side of the road, exited his vehicle, and fled into a wooded area,” the chief said.
Officers gave chase but quit after they heard a pop.
The accused double murderer had apparently turned his gun on himself.
“There was one gunshot that was heard,” Chief Bingham said.
A wounded Lamb was rushed to a local hospital, where he was shortly after pronounced dead by the deputy coroner in Washington County.
After a close look at Lamb’s Facebook account, it appears the professor was a part-time musician.
On April 30, 2013, Lamb let his friends know that the reason he’d been almost invisible was, during his five years at Delta State University, he’d been single-handedly rearing two kids. “Almost 7 years ago I was given the privilege, and the most labor-intensive job of my life… That of rearing my amazing son and daughter.”
In the post, he went on to dote on his kids as “straight ‘A’ students, extremely loving and respectful to others… I could not ask for better children.”
At the end of the post, which he signed, “Love, Dad,” Lamb poured his heart out, saying that he realized “I should be more thankful for the blessings… [and] pay less attention to past mistakes and closer attention to those that I did get right!!”
One of the many Facebook friends who was moved by the note was Amy Prentiss. She wrote: “This is so touching to read, Shannon. You are the most amazing man that I have ever met. You are a wonderful daddy and I truly admire that! It is an honor to spend time with you and the little Lambs! Thanks for sharing your lives with me! I love y’all!”
The affectionate pitter-patter continued online for a couple of years. Lamb repeatedly refers to Prentiss as his “sweet baby angel.”
He also posted pictures of his apparent lead foot—putting up a blurry shot of his speedometer touching 120 mph.
A few months later, when he completed his doctorate, Lamb wrote that he was a lucky academic because of the woman in his life. He wrote about how he’d been juggling his dissertation, full-time work, raising his family, and maintaining “a relationship with the best girl in the whole wide world. [Amy Prentiss].”
In one post from Jan. 23, 2014, Lamb uploaded a picture of his teens when they were toddlers and boasted about how they were hitting him up for driver’s permits.
Prentiss chimed in months later: “Compare these children to the ones we have now… I think they have been abducted and replaced with almost grown ones! Boy, does time fly!”
Around the same time, Prentiss also posted a seemingly flirty exchange about a Courtyard Marriott ad that trumpeted, “Have Your Affair Here.”
“Those marketing degrees pay off! Haha,” Prentiss wrote. “This is no accident or oversight. Shannon Lamb, let’s go have an ‘affair’ there! Lol.”
The comments started dwindling earlier this year. One, left by Prentiss on Lamb’s page, apparently on May 15 of this year, mused over their hound dog Lightning. A portrait of the pooch is followed by her remarking how he managed to gobble up her gum.
“He just stuck his head in my briefcase and devoured an entire pack of gum—foil paper included,” she wrote.
On July 14, after Lamb posted a picture of himself in a full cap and gown, all smiles as he received his doctorate, Prentiss was one of 125 well-wishers offering their salute. “I’m very proud of you!! Lightning is too. We love you more than anything and appreciate all of your hard work and dedication. Lightning thinks that this constitutes an ice cream celebration. I vote for Disney! Congratulations, Dr. Lamb. I love you more every day.”
As for Lamb’s other alleged victim, Ethan Schmidt, authorities could only confirm that the two men knew each other.
Back in Schmidt’s native Peabody, Kansas, Harlin and Doris Unruh were reeling from the news. Harlin Unruh said his wife was Schmidt’s teacher.
The young academic was so bright in high school he was a leader in a team that traveled around the state in the annual Quiz Bowl, which is a sort of battle of brains covering topics like math and science.
“They competed at the state meet,” Harlin Unruh remembered fondly. “My wife taught Ethan and he used to call her ‘Grandma’ even though she was only in her late twenties.”
When word spread that Schmidt had been murdered, they were hoping it could have been someone else, not their Ethan. “We knew he had moved a couple times so we weren’t exactly sure, but then we checked and there it was.”
Schmidt had been on a bright path ever since he’d completed his doctorate at the University of Kansas back in 2007. He taught for six years at Texas Tech and published extensively during his tenure at Delta State, the Cleveland, Mississippi-based university, where he taught a wide range of classes, from “The American Colonies” to “Baseball: A Mirror of America.”
"We mourn the loss of our colleague who has served us so well. It is indeed a tragic moment for this university,” Delta State University president Bill LaForge told reporters during a news conference Monday night.
“He was the first call we made when our son went down to teach at Texas Tech,” Harlin Unruh said of the young man who lost his life Monday. “He recommended a couple neighborhoods to live and was willing to always help.”