The bodies of a mother and three children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake in what authorities say is a “possible triple murder-suicide” following the death of a man earlier in the day, ABC 5 reports.
As CrimeOnline reported previously, crews found the body of the first child around 7:30 p.m. Friday and the second child shortly after midnight Saturday at Vadnais Lake in the St. Paul suburb of Vadnais Heights.
Authorities suspended the search until daybreak and later located the mother’s body at about 10:40 a.m. Saturday, while the third child was found about 20 minutes later.
The children – two boys and a girl – are believed to be under 5 or 6 years old.
The heartbreaking tragedy started on Friday morning in the suburb of Maplewood, where police were called around 10:30 a.m. to a residence for a report of a man found dead of a suspected suicide.
Investigators say the reported suicide is connected to the incident at the lake but have not provided any additional details. The Associated Press reports that the man is the father of the children found in the lake.
On Friday afternoon, officers were asked to conduct a wellness check on the mother and children. Police tracked the woman’s phone to the lake and located her vehicle, the children’s shoes, and other items, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
A land and water search then ensued. Boats with sonar equipment helped find the bodies in addition to visual searches.
In a press release, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office said it was investigating the lake incident as a “possible triple murder-suicide.”
“Our hearts go out to the families involved here and their friends,” Ramsey County Undersheriff Mike Martin told reporters at a press conference Saturday, according to KARE 11. “Our goal was to find the children and the mother and to return them to their families, and we’re glad that we were able to do that.”
Cmdr. Eric Bradt of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office Water Patrol said recovering the bodies was emotionally challenging.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years as a cop and water patrol for most of it. This is one of the more difficult ones,” Bradt told reporters, according to KARE 11.
Meanwhile, relatives and friends of the victims gathered near the lake on Saturday, according to the Star Tribune. A bouquet of flowers could also be seen along the shoreline.
The Ramsey County Medical Examiner is conducting autopsies on the bodies. Details about how the individuals died have not been released, nor has the identity of the family.
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[Feature Photo via Lake Vadnais/Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office]