Shannon Lamb, a Delta State University professor who police say killed his live-in girlfriend and then gunned down a fellow professor in his campus office on Monday, called police to tell them about the first killing and later vowed that he would not go to jail.
Amid a massive manhunt across Mississippi on Monday night and into Tuesday, Lamb pulled his car over as police closed in, ran into a wooded area and apparently shot himself, police said. The suicide ended a chaotic day during which police say Lamb, 45, killed Amy Prentiss, 41, in the home they shared in Gautier, Miss., and then Ethan Schmidt, 39, a father of three and a history professor at Delta State, in Cleveland, Miss.
In a news conference Tuesday in Gautier, near the Gulf Coast, officer Matt Hoggatt said detectives are still looking for a motive in Prentiss’s killing. Hoggatt also said there does not appear to be a direct link between Prentiss and Schmidt.
Police said Lamb, who had no prior criminal record, left a note at the scene in Gautier that said, in part: “Very sorry I wish I could take it back I loved Amy and she is the only person who ever loved me.”
Lamb called police after Prentiss died, taking responsibility for the slaying in a 911 call shortly after 10 a.m. Monday, telling the operator: “I shot my wife last night.” Later in the call, he asked police to take care of their dog and to reach out to Prentiss’s family. “Take care of her,” he said.
About 45 minutes after that call, police said, Schmidt was shot and killed in his Delta State office, spurring a campus-wide lockdown that lasted through the evening as police sought a shooter.
Classes at Delta State were canceled Monday and Tuesday, and a celebration of the campus’s 90th anniversary scheduled for Tuesday was postponed as the community mourned.
Police are still investigating the motive for the campus shooting, which stunned the school of 4,000 students in northern Mississippi. Schmidt was known by his friends and colleagues as a mentor who connected with both students and faculty.
Schmidt completed his doctorate in history at the University of Kansas in 2007, studying the conflicts between Native American tribes and colonial settlers in Virginia. He spent six years at Texas Tech University in Lubbock before joining the Delta State faculty.
Nicole Anslover, who studied in the history department at Kansas with Schmidt, said that he exuded “the enthusiasm he had for it and the subject he was writing about and trying to help people see those early conflicts with objectivity and fresh eyes.”
She said no one was surprised when he landed a tenure-track position straight out of graduate school, a rare achievement for a young scholar.
At Kansas, he was known as a fervent Jayhawks basketball fan who organized annual March Madness parties with pizza and a bracket challenge. Anslover, who shared an office in the basement of Wescoe Hall with him at Kansas while they were both graduate students, said that Schmidt enjoyed teaching his oldest son the fundamentals of the game.
Kansas classmate Krystle Perkins said that she used to call Schmidt “the machine,” for his work ethic.
“He had kids, he was married and he taught and he had classes and he still managed to finish before the rest of us,” Perkins said, who noted that Schmidt awoke daily at 4 a.m. “He was a really driven scholar but really great at not making people feel like he was better than them.”
Kyle Anthony, another Kansas classmate, said that Schmidt was a proud father who coached his son’s soccer team — despite knowing nothing about the sport — and posted stats and points scored by his three children on Facebook. Anslover said that Schmidt beamed when talking about his children and teaching them lyrics to his favorite Johnny Cash or Sheryl Crow songs.
Brady DeSanti, who studied with Schmidt from 2003 to 2007 at Kansas, said that above all, Schmidt treated all of his friends as family and mentored his classmates in times of need.
“He was like the father figure to all of us,” said DeSanti, now a religious studies and Native American studies professor at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. “He was able to masterfully juggle the workload and family life.”
DeSanti said that Schmidt always lent his encouragement to his fellow students, especially as they struggled to keep up with their research and personal lives.
“I just remember him always taking time to help his friends and colleagues,” DeSanti said, noting that Schmidt set an ideal example. “He was completely immersed in his childrens’ lives but also had time to write books and teach classes. He was a consummate family man and husband. To this day, I’ll always see him as an older brother.”
Anthony, now a professor at St. Mary University in Leavenworth, Kan., said that Schmidt helped him craft his first syllabus and hone the art of the college lecture.
“He was brilliant in the regard that he took these complex historical ideas and explained them to me and helped me,” Anthony said. He noted that as historians, “we tell stories. But those stories have important lessons and he’d do it in a way that was engaging and have students responding in kind.”
Delta State senior Antoinette Riddle said that Schmidt helped her in class when she was at the point of failing.
“I would have given up if it weren’t for him,” she said. “I was scared about school and down on myself, and he lifted me up.”