12 Investigates: 15-year-old Henrico double homicide remains open

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - For 15 years, a brutal double homicide in Tuckahoe has remained a priority for Henrico detectives. It's one they remember well, because the only survivor was the victim's 3-year-old son.

NBC12 cameras were there on February 11, 1998 when officers discovered two people shot to death inside a home on Sleepy Duck Lane.

But the crime scene would become even more disturbing when officers heard a sound upstairs.

"They could hear a baby crying, and it was young Ryan," says Captain Jan Stem. He was in charge of violent crimes back then.

He remembers officers finding 3-year-old Ryan in his crib, crying for his mother, Shelly Schantz. But she would never come - officers found her body downstairs.

"It appears the subject put their foot onto her chest, and the final shot was the one into her head," says Captain Stem.

A few feet away, police discovered another body: her roommate, Allen Ripka, also killed with a bullet to the head.

"Someone came in there, murdered two individuals. That's sad enough," he said. "But left a 3-year-old alone at night... it bothered everybody there."

The officers aren't the only people still haunted by that day.

"I can hardly believe it's been 15 years," said Mary Cox.  She was the toddler's daycare provider and still owns Jack and Jill School where little Ryan briefly attended. When he didn't show up that day, she called 911 and rode with an officer to the house.

"You've never seen so many police cars, just so many police cars." Recalling that day is still difficult for Cox. "And all I wanted them to do was to get Ryan," she said. "When Ryan saw me, he grabbed my neck and he wouldn't let go, and he just kept holding on and holding on."

Back at the police station, a large file is something Captain Stem and his detectives go through regularly.

They believe Shelly was the main target and Allen wasn't supposed to be there.

"We focused on two avenues of who could be involved in this, and as we speak today, we still have the same two theories," he said. One theory focuses on threats made to Shelly before she died.

Detectives won't go into their second theory right now, afraid it could hurt the case. Stem says there is a lack of evidence, so there have been no charges.

Now, there is one big thing both everyone involved is looking for now.

"A confession, somebody who wants to clean their soul," said Stem.

"Turn yourself in!" says Cox. "15 years! How much more do you want this family to endure!"

Family members tell NBC12 that Ryan will graduate from high school this year and is going to college. They, of course, wish his mother was here to see all that he's accomplished.

If you think you know something that could help this case, Henrico Police say call Crime Stoppers at 780-1000 or the Cold Case Team at 501-5240.

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