Clatsop County medical examiners determined Wednesday that the deaths of a 49-year-old St. Helens man and his 10-year-old son found at the coast Tuesday are the result of a murder-suicide.
The bodies of Rockland Stephens and his son, Shane Davis, who was a student at Lewis and Clark Intermediate School in St. Helens, were discovered at Ft. Stevens State Park near Warrenton.
School counselors have been working with Davis' classmates at the Lewis and Clark Intermediate School today in the wake of the tragedy.
"They certainly grasp it, and the students in [Shane's] grade level are certainly grieving," said Cathy Carson, the school's principal.
"Shane was an absolutely delightful child who always had a smile on his face," said Lori Thompson, an educator who worked with Shane, in a prepared statement. "Words cannot express how much this loss has impacted our community. He will be tremendously missed."
The Warrenton Police Department responded to a call for assistance at the coastal park Tuesday afternoon when employees there found "suspicious circumstances" at a campsite, according to a police department press release.
Toxicology tests are being run by the State Medical Examiner's Office. Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said it appears Stephens ran a hose from the exhaust of his van into the cab. The condition of the bodies is consistent with carbon monoxide poisoning, the release says.
A note was not found at the scene, though other evidence not yet disclosed suggests a murder-suicide scenario.
On Monday, March 17, an arrest warrant was issued against Stephens in Columbia County Circuit Court for attempted custodial interference and contempt of court after failing to return his son after a weekend visit. The child's mother, Shannon Davis, 35, of St. Helens, flagged down an Oregon State Police officer one hour after her son was not returned at the designated drop-off point at a designated time.
Davis reported to the police that she was afraid Stephens could have fled the country, an action he had previously taken with Davis' older child from a separate relationship.
Earlier this year, on Jan. 18, the mother sought and obtained a restraining order from Columbia County Circuit Judge Steven Reed against Stephens when she became concerned about his conduct, according to court records. Soon after, on Jan. 22, Reed modified the order to allow Stephens weekend visitation of his son.
Columbia County Circuit Court records show that Davis was increasingly concerned about Stephens' behavior. The former couple lived together between 1994 and 2000, when the relationship dissolved amid domestic abuse complaints that segued into a bitter court battle over child custody.
Though Stephens listed a St. Helens address in court documents, a police account of the events following his failure to return Shane shows that he was living at the Rocky Point Marina on a sailboat south of Scappoose.
Court records also point to a history of abuse against Davis by Stephens, and that Davis said Stephens had threatened to kill her in the past.
She also reported in January that his actions were getting "bolder and bolder" and that "he is a very unstable person."
A candlelight vigil for Shane is planned for 7 p.m. on Friday, March 21, at the Lewis and Clark Intermediate School in St. Helens.