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Mom yanked 8-year-old onto railroad crossing — just as train sped their way, cops say

Police say that Teresa Gerleman, 36, killed herself and her 8-year-old son, Henry, in an apparent murder-suicide when she pulled the boy onto the train tracks as a train sped toward them. The incident happened in Bell Plaine, Iowa, on May 4.
Police say that Teresa Gerleman, 36, killed herself and her 8-year-old son, Henry, in an apparent murder-suicide when she pulled the boy onto the train tracks as a train sped toward them. The incident happened in Bell Plaine, Iowa, on May 4. Screenshot from Teresa Gerleman's Facebook

Police rushed to a railroad crossing in Bell Plaine, Iowa, and found a startling scene.

A train had hit and killed a 36-year-old woman and 8-year-old boy sometime before 5 a.m. May 4, police told The Gazette. Both were found dead at the scene, and investigators began looking into what caused the pair to be in the path of a train.

Now authorities say they believe that Teresa Gerleman purposefully yanked her son into the path of the oncoming train in an apparent murder-suicide. According to KCCI8, the Iowa Public Safety Department reached that conclusion after looking at video of the incident and interviewing employees with Union Pacific Railroad.

Deputies also found evidence at Gerleman's home that suggested she planned to kill herself and her son, Henry, police told The Des Moines Register.

Surveillance footage shows the mother waiting close to the tracks as a train got nearer and nearer, police told WHO-TV. Then she and her boy cross the tracks, police say, but Gerleman then returns to the middle of the crossing. Finally, she pulls her son onto the tracks with her and the train hits both of them, the video allegedly shows.

Police say they are unsure why Gerleman killed herself and her son in that way, according to The Des Moines Register.

“We don’t know what tipped the scale, so to speak,” special agent Richard Rahn, of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, told the newspaper. “Those are always the million-dollar questions.”

A woman named Erica Pecinovsky wrote on Facebook that she knew the 36-year-old mother and her son.

Pecinovsky mourned the loss of Gerleman and shared images of the two together with their children.

"I would have done anything to have you both here with us longer," she wrote. "I love and miss you Teresa and Henry. I can’t ever make sense of this and have no idea when any closure will come :( "

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