Parents at Valrico Elementary School say Deputy Terry L. Strawn was always smiling and the students “loved him.” Strawn’s shocking murder suicide has left more questions for the family, friends and community as Strawn’s wife Theresa, his granddaughter, Londyn and daughter Courtney Strong were killed in the incident.
Sheriff Chad Chronister detailed the attack, explaining that Strawn, 58, a school resource deputy at Valrico Elementary School, shot and killed his wife, Theresa, 54, and his granddaughter, Londyn, who lived with the couple at their Valrico home. He then went to the home of his daughter, Courtney Strong, 32, and killed her.
Then, as fellow deputies pleaded with him to put his gun down, Strawn used his service revolver to fatally shoot himself. He was found near the Plant City High School baseball fields, a short distance from his daughter’s home.
As the school’s resource officer, Strawn was widely known by parents and kids in the community. Grief counselors were on hand at elementary school Thursday to help students and faculty deal with the heartbreaking tragedy.
“I find that hard to believe because he was such a nice guy,” one parent told WTSP. “I’m in shock.”
Sheriff Chronister said Deputy Strawn showed no signs of having any issues, making this even harder for people to understand.
“No indications, no behavior issues, nothing that would lead any of us, any employee to believe that this employee was struggling,” Chronister said.
Sheriff Chronister said Strawn did say he was having health and financial problems when deputies tried talking to him before he killed himself. He also told them he just wanted to be with his family.
“We’ve been concerned. We see suicide rates that have risen. Why this is occurring. I wish I knew,” said Chronister, noting that the sheriff’s office has developed a suicide prevention and awareness program for personnel that is due to begin Jan. 1. “We have to change the culture. We have to let everyone know it’s OK to ask for help.”
Strawn was named Officer of the Year for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in 2009 for his tireless efforts as a lawman.
“Deputy Strawn is persistent, leaving no stone unturned in his pursuit of the lawbreakers,” former Sheriff David Gee said at the time. “Recently he arrested a fugitive and an armed robbery suspect after a traffic stop. His high rate of success in the location and capture of numerous suspects has earned him this year’s top honor in east Hillsborough County.”
Valrico Elementary School responded with the following statement:
The staff and families at Valrico Elementary are devastated by this unthinkable tragedy. Londyn was a first grade student at the school. She loved to learn and was excited about reading and math. She had a kind spirit and always helped classmates.The news came as a shock to everyone at the school and they are working through their grief. Our district has crisis team members at the school to work with staff members. We have let parents know crisis team members will be at school Thursday for any students who want to talk.