Pine resident Scott Behn, who was on his way to gather wood on the Rim Friday morning, found the bodies of 38-year-old Sharman Smith of Flagstaff and her 2-year-old daughter, Emily, three miles north of Strawberry.
Behn thought they were dummies or a Halloween prank, Gila County Sheriff's Deputy Bob Bonney said.
The woodcutter drove to the Pine-Strawberry Fire Station for help and P-S Captain Harris Scott was sent to the scene. He found the mother and daughter, who had each been shot once in the head, about 100 yards south of a radio repeater tower.
"It's surrealistic," Scott said Friday morning. "They don't look real."
Scott found the toddler 50 yards from the rental pickup her mother had driven into the woods. The little girl was strapped into her car seat, Scott said. She was sitting up and looked like a mannequin, he said.
The girl's mother was laying on her back in between the truck and her child, a .38 caliber gun resting on her chest, he said. A note on the seat of the truck read: "Doomsday, 10/28/99, 5 p.m. She's mine and I'm taking her with me," Scott said.
Less than three hours before Sharman Smith is believed to have written that note Thursday afternoon, she lost custody of her daughter to her mother, Rheta Smith, Flagstaff Police Sergeant Ed Vesely said.
The battle over the 2-year-old began months ago, Vesely said.
In May, Sharman wrote obscene comments on Emily's body with a water-soluble pen for her mother to find, he said.
Rheta called police and their investigation led to a misdemeanor abuse charge against Sharman.
During the investigation, Sharman's mental condition became an issue, and on Thursday afternoon a judge awarded sole custody of Emily to Rheta, Vesely said. There were no other guardians involved in the custody dispute, he said.
The court gave Sharman an hour to visit with Emily following the hearing. During that time, Sharman took her daughter from a DES approved child-care home, rented a vehicle and fled Flagstaff with her only child.