This weekend marks one year since the Westerhuis tragedy rattled the community of Platte, and shocked the state of South Dakota.
It was just last year that fire crews found the Westerhuis home burning, with all six family members dead inside.
“The tragedy that affected our entire community,” Jennifer Knecht , Platte-Geddes Elementary Principal, said.
On Sept. 17, 2015, Mid Central’s business manager Scott Westerhuis shot and killed his wife and four children, set his house on fire and turned the gun on himself, just hours after the State Department of Education pulled the GEAR UP grant from Mid Central Education Cooperative, following a troubled audit.
Now, a year later, Platte Geddes Elementary Principal Jennifer Knecht is taking time to remember the four Westerhuis children who attended school.
“Well respected by everyone and well-liked by everyone. They were kids that had many many friends. All of them,” Knecht said.
The murder-suicide rattled the small town of Platte. Yet, Knecht says the tragic incident has brought the tight-knit community even closer together.
“People have been there with a shoulder to cry on, or a hug, and have just been there for each other and we’ve really had to be if someone is having a tough day or a tough time,” Knecht said.
Though many are still trying to make sense of the tragedy, Knecht is positive the people of Platte will continue to move forward.
“Just a matter of healing, that we went through this tragedy together, and we’re going to overcome and heal together as well so..,” Knecht said.
In the last year, our KELOLAND investigation exposed a lack of oversight on the millions in grant money, all kinds of possible conflicts of interest, mismanagement of funds and promises made in the grant that were never kept.