Son dead, mom clinging to life after Struthers shootings



Police continue their investigation today to determine the motive behind what they are calling an apparent murder-suicide attempt.

Justin Slaven, 23, was found dead of a gunshot wound in the basement of the residence, 433 Seventh St., late Thursday.

His father, Robert Slaven, discovered his son between 11 and 11:30 p.m. after he returned home from work. He also discovered that his wife, 44-year-old Leslie Slaven, had shot herself, police said.

According to the police report, Robert Slaven then ran to a neighbor’s home, saying his wife and son were dead, and that she’d shot them both. The neighbor contacted the Struthers Police Department.

When police arrived, however, Leslie Slaven was still alive, albeit unconscious. She was in critical condition late Friday at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown.

Police did not discuss the location of the gunshot wounds.

Police Chief Tim Roddy called the incident unfortunate. Police haven’t yet determined a motive, Roddy added, explaining the investigation is ongoing.

“Moms don’t arbitrarily just decide to kill themselves [and] their kids,” Roddy said. “Very rarely do you see women do that.”

A representative of the Mahoning County Coroner’s Office is investigating the shootings, and Roddy noted the police department’s investigation will depend heavily upon those findings.

Leslie Slaven’s condition also will factor into the case, Roddy said; at this point, any forthcoming charges are the least of the family’s worries.

“We all have families, and this is a tragic event,” Roddy said. “Our main focus is the welfare of the family. ... We just want to be there for the family in any way we can.”

Laurie Serenko, a former Struthers City Schools intervention specialist, remembers Justin Slaven as “the sweetest little thing” who had “so many obstacles to overcome” because of his cognitive delays and physical limitations. But he always kept trying, said Serenko, who worked closely with him from kindergarten through the fourth grade.

She added that Leslie Slaven always seemed to be “a very good mom” who loved him and was both very protective of him and very supportive of anything he did.

“You love your students, especially when you have them for five years,” said Serenko, now a second-grade teacher at Struthers Elementary School. “It’s just a shame. He was just a really great kid.”

Mary Ann Meadows, a principal at Struthers High School, echoed Serenko’s words. Meadows said she met Justin Slaven during his freshman year at the high school. He was “just a kind, kind soul” who was “always smiling” and “always happy,” she said.

“We’re all really shocked,” Meadows said.

A vigil in memory of Justin Slaven, a 2009 graduate, will be Sunday at Struthers High School, 111 Euclid Ave. It will start at 7:30 p.m., and all family, friends and classmates are welcome to attend.

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