Mother, father and 3 kids dead in likely murder-suicide

Mother, father and 3 kids dead in likely murder-suicide

SALEM, Ore. - Firefighters found a mother and her three young children who had been killed and left in a burning Salem home early Tuesday morning, according to Salem police.

Police also said the woman's husband and the father of the children was later found dead in a car in Cottage Grove, Ore. Investigators said it appeared to be a murder-suicide.

Firefighters responded to a house fire on Fisher Road NE at about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. While fighting the fire, crews discovered the four bodies in the home and removed them from the house.

"Evidence located at the scene indicated that the victims died as a result of homicidal violence and firefighters requested the Salem Police Department respond," Lt. Dave Okada said.

On Wednesday, Dr. Larry Lewman, M.E., said the mother and two of the children were shot to death. The youngest child, a baby about four months old, was asphyxiated. Lewman said the gunshots came from a handgun and took place before the home was set on fire.

At about 11 a.m., a deceased man was found in a car in the Cottage Grove area, investigators said. Although the man hasn't been identified, police believe he's their suspect. A cause of death for the man has not been released.

"Investigators believe this to be a domestic related murder-suicide situation," Okada said.

Salem police detectives scoured the burned home for evidence and cut away parts of the house for lab tests. Late in the evening, they erected a fence and posted a guard to keep the crime scene secure.

None of the deceased has been identified and police said the investigation into the deaths is ongoing. The ages of the children have not been released but neighbor Doug Tavares said they were probably 5 years old and younger.

"I seen the tarps on the ground in the front yard," he said. "You can smell the char from the fire. Didn't look like a big house fire."

He added the family seemed like an "average family."

"The question is why? Why is this happening?" Tavares asked. "Supposed to be a nice neighborhood. We love this place."

The brother of the suspect wouldn't speak to KATU News on camera but said he doesn't believe what police are saying about his brother. He said it's very out of character, and he would never do anything like this.

Friends said the family was part of a tightknit Russian community in the neighborhood, and parishioners at the Slavic Christian Church remember the family in the same way.

Salem Police were also investigating after a delivery driver found a dead man on Fisher Road NE just a few blocks from the house fire. That deceased person was identified Wednesday as Devan R. Matlock, 21, of Salem.

An autopsy revealed Matlock died of trauma to the head. It is still unknown if Matlock's death is in any way connected to the fire and murders that took place nearby.

KATU News reporters Lincoln Graves and Thom Jensen contributed to this report.