SACO — A family of five was found fatally shot in a Saco apartment on Sunday afternoon, and police said late Sunday they are considering the possibility that the deaths of the man, his wife and their three children were a murder-suicide.
Police said the shootings in a second-floor apartment at 35 Water St. could have taken place around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, when neighbors reported hearing a sound like “firecrackers” going off.
But the bodies of the family members were not discovered until Sunday afternoon in bedrooms in their apartment. A preliminary examination by a deputy state medical examiner indicated that each person had been shot to death.
A neighbor said she saw the husband, who appeared angry, drive away from the apartment building during daylight hours Sunday morning and return a short time later.
Sgt. Chris Harriman of the Maine State Police said the identities of the deceased will likely be released Monday, after relatives have been notified.
The people shot to death were the parents, both in their mid-30s, and their three children – boys ages 12 and 7 and a 4-year-old girl.
“It is definitely something that we will be looking at,” Harriman said during a press conference late Sunday night, when asked if the shooting was a murder-suicide.
Harriman said autopsies on the bodies – to be performed Monday by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta – should answer questions about what happened.
Police were notified Sunday after a friend of the family became concerned for the family’s well-being and called a worker associated with the apartment complex, Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said in a press release Sunday night.
The worker called Saco police at 1:24 p.m. after entering the apartment and discovering one of the bodies. Saco police officers then found the five bodies in three different rooms, McCausland said.
“All indications are that no one outside of the family was responsible for the deaths,” McCausland said. “These are not accidental deaths.”
The bodies of the adults and one child were found in one bedroom, and the bodies of two children were found in two other bedrooms, Harriman said.
A “long gun” was found next to one of the deceased along with shell casings, but police would not elaborate or say who might have fired the weapon.
Several neighbors said the father was employed as a maintenance worker for the owners of the apartment complex, which is known as RiverView Apartments.
The complex is a 61-unit building near the Saco River in downtown Saco. No one answered a call to the company listed as operating the building, Phoenix Management.
Heather Nason said she knew the family well and was the children’s baby sitter until about a year ago. She and her husband, Dellas Nason, were seen placing a bouquet of flowers outside the apartment building where the family lived.
Heather Nason said the children were great kids and well-mannered.
“I loved them like they were my own,” said Nason, who lives across the street. “It’s extremely shocking. I never heard they (the parents) were having problems.”
Vera Neault, a neighbor who lives across the street, said she saw the children’s father leave their home Sunday morning. He appeared to be angry about something. She said he got into a car and sped off, “squealing his tires.” When he returned, she saw him walk up the stairs to their home and “slam the door.”
“I can’t believe what happened. It’s always so quiet here. People usually stick to themselves. I’m shocked,” Neault said.
Another neighbor, Stella Contrerais, said she got to know the children’s mother after the mother asked her for a cigarette one day. She offered to visit the mother one time, but she told her to meet her downstairs and not at their apartment. Contrerais said the family always kept their window blinds and curtains drawn.
She said the woman’s husband made her feel uncomfortable.
She described his demeanor as menacing.
“If his eyes could kill, you’d be dead,” she said.
Contrerais said the children, with the exception of the little girl, attended local schools. She would see them get on the school bus each morning.
Another neighbor, Kristi Harkins, described the father of the children as friendly and outgoing, according to The Associated Press.
“You’d walk and he’d ask how your day was going. He was really nice,” Harkins said.
Saco Police Chief Bradley Paul said there were no suicide notes found at the scene. Paul said his officers, who were the first to respond, were having some difficulty in dealing with what they saw.
“It was a tough scene for everyone who entered the apartment,” Paul said. “And it’s going to be tough for them to come to grips with.”