Singer from Twin Cities band found dead in Montana

Associated Press

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- A woman who sang for a Minneapolis rock 'n' roll band was found dead in her home in Montana -- the apparent victim of a triple murder-suicide.

Jessica McDonald, 32, who was known as Jessica Schwartzbauer when she sang with the Gooney Birds during the bar band's heyday in the late 1980s and '90s, died along with her two children and her husband, Ric McDonald, 44.

Police said Ric McDonald killed his family and then himself and that the handgun apparently used in the crime was found at the home. Police were trying to determine when the deaths occurred.

Officers found Jessica McDonald shot in her bedroom Tuesday morning. The two children were found shot in their beds. Police found Ric McDonald's body lying next to the bed on the floor, Lt. Jere Carpenter said.


Jessica McDonald, formerly of Edina, Minn., was scheduled to perform Aug. 15 and 16 in Minneapolis for a Gooney Birds reunion concert. The surviving band members may perform anyway, making the concert a memorial to Jessica, Izaak, 6, and Anika, 3, her father, Bob Schwartzbauer, said Wednesday.

Last August, the band performed at their old venue, the Cabooze in Minneapolis, for a 10-year reunion show. That concert was a huge success and the Cabooze was packed, Bob Schwartzbauer said.

A memorial was posted on the band's Web site,

Karen Schwartzbauer, Jessica's mother, said her daughter was in the middle of a divorce after six years of marriage.

"I was out there just before Memorial Day when she served the (divorce) papers," she said. "... There were three beautiful, talented people taken from the world, and it wasn't justified."

The mother said she feared something bad might happen.

"His temper would be so violent," she said. "... I had fear of it, but you don't believe those things are going to happen, and I think she had fear of it too."

Jessica McDonald filed for divorce May 19, saying her husband had a history of alcoholism and abuse. She had also sought a restraining order against him.


"During the marriage, there have been other physical confrontations and I believe it had escalated to the point that when he receives these papers, there could be physical violence," she wrote in seeking the restraining order.

Jessica McDonald had asked for custody of the children and the couple's house.

"The children have witnessed their father's behavior toward me when he is violent and I do not believe that is appropriate for them," she said in court papers.

On June 3 -- the day before a hearing to make the restraining order final -- the couple filed an agreement allowing him back home.

Carpenter said none of the complaints made in court papers were brought to the attention of the police before they were asked to check on the welfare of the family Tuesday morning.

As a student at Edina High School, Jessica was in all the musicals and earned a trip to Salt Lake City as a member of the National Honors Choir, her mother said. Jessica met her fellow Gooney Bird bandmates in high school, too.

For three years, the band performed every Sunday at the Cabooze. Jessica possessed a "rich, full voice that can belt with bluesy grit and charm with smoky soul," according to a 1989 review in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

She studied at the MacPhail Center for the Arts in Minneapolis, then moved to San Francisco, where she met her husband, Bob Schwartzbauer said. The couple moved to Montana, where Jessica McDonald worked part time at a day care center and joined a blues band, the 49th Street Blues Project. She also was active in the Great Falls community, her family said.

What To Read Next
Get Local