An Indiana mother and her five-year-old daughter who were found dead last month in their home died from carbon monoxide intoxication.
Kimbra Shanafelt, 49, and her daughter Dahni were found deceased at their Evansville home around 5:30 p.m. on April 22.
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Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding says Shanafelt’s death is considered a suicide and they ruled Dahni’s death a reckless homicide.
“We feel that [Kimbra Shanafelt] had the intent to kill herself,” Wedding tells PEOPLE. “We ruled the child’s death a reckless homicide because the manner in which she died, her mother put her in that position — whether she did it with true intent or not.”
“The puzzle remains: did she intend for her child to pass away as well, or did she think her child might be safe in the residence and found later? Those are questions we will always ask ourselves and it will be a big puzzle that remains,” says Wedding.
Shanafelt, an optical lab technician, was found lying outside her vehicle, which was left running in the home’s garage. The door of the vehicle was open, the battery was dead and there was no fuel left.
The garage door leading inside the house was closed, says Wedding. “…This one-car garage had a furnace which would easily suck any vapors into the house through the ventilation system, but we don’t know if the mother knew that.”
Wedding says there were no signs of injury, break-in or weapons found at the scene.
“I was at the autopsy and we found no … significant injury and certainly not one associated with the death,” he says.
Wedding says the two were found by Shanafelt’s sister, who had gone to the house to check on their well-being.
Wedding says they don’t know who died first.
“We can’t pinpoint who died first but they both appeared to be deceased for several days,” he says.
Shanafelt, a single mother of two, had a “quirky, off-center sense of humor,” her sister, Dana Markee, told the Courier & Press.
“She was really compassionate,” Markee said. “She was kind of the artsy type. She loved handmade jewelry and music. She liked corny jokes. She loved her kids.”
“I can say she would be absolutely shocked by how many people have been touched by all this,” her friend Sarah Wolf said, the Courier & Press reports. “She always smiled at everybody. She just did her best to provide and work hard.”
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Dahni was a kindergarten student at Highland Elementary School.
“She hugged everyone,” said Markee. “We could go to restaurants, and she would hug the waitress,” Markee said. “She never met a stranger. She loved her teacher at Highland.”
According to her obituary, Dahni loved the Disney movie Frozen, animals and the colors pink and purple.