Authorities: Motive 'up in the air' in mysterious shooting of pregnant Ohio mom, toddler


CINCINNATI — The mystery surrounding the shooting death of a pregnant woman and the wounding of her toddler in their car in southern Ohio's Appalachian country deepened today after authorities held a news conference releasing few details about the investigation.

No arrests have been made in last Wednesday's killing of Brittany Stykes, a 22-year-old stay-at-home mom. Stykes' 14-month-old daughter, Aubree, was shot in the head and is recovering at a Cincinnati hospital. Stykes was five months pregnant, and the fetus didn't survive.

Authorities thought they were going to the scene of a car crash on Aug. 28 when they responded to a call about a vehicle off the road in Ripley, some 45 miles southeast of Cincinnati. Instead, they found Stykes dead and Aubree bleeding from the head, still strapped in her car seat.

After more than a week of investigation, the motive in the crime "is still up in the air," Brown County Sheriff Dwayne Wenninger said at a news conference today.

"Obviously we're taking this as a very serious matter," he said, adding that investigators were testing unspecified items found at the scene and trying to reconstruct the crime. "We hope this helps fill in some of the pieces of the puzzle."

Preliminary autopsy results viewed by Cincinnati-area media members show that at least five shots were fired at Stykes' car and that two bullets hit her, causing three wounds to her body; the fatal shot hit her in the chest and punctured her lungs. The report also showed that no gunpowder residue was found on Stykes' body, suggesting that the shots weren't fired at close range, according to media reports.

David Dodson, Stykes' father and Aubree's grandfather, told The Associated Press today that he and his family are still baffled about why anyone would want to hurt his daughter and her children.

Stykes lived for her family and was loved by everyone who knew her, said Dodson, 49.

"She would call me every morning and it was always, 'Dad, what are we going to do today?'" Dodson said, adding that his daughter spent every day with her parents while her husband worked his factory job in Cincinnati.

"She loved being a mom, that was her world right there — the babies and being married," he said. "She wanted to be with us all the time."

His daughter had just left her mother-in-law's house and was on her way home when she was shot, Dodson said.

He said Aubree is getting better every day and has been asking about her mother. But until he knows who killed his daughter and unborn grandchild, Dodson said that he'll be worried Aubree's safety.

"If there's anyone who knows any information, I beg you, please come out and get a hold of the sheriff's department on this," he said. "We need answers."

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to whoever was responsible.

"We're not going to leave any stone unturned to get justice for Brittany and her family," Chief Deputy John Schadle said earlier this week.