Four members of a West Chester Twp. family were found dead Sunday night as apparent victims of gun violence, and police spent Sunday night and Monday searching for a suspect while telling the community they were not in danger..
At about 9:40 p.m. officers were dispatched to 4562 Wyndtree Drive in the Lakefront at West Chester apartment complex for a report of four people down, according to Police Chief Joel Herzog.
Three females and one male were found in the apartment dead. All suffered apparent gunshot sounds, Herzog said.
The incident caused a large perimeter to be set up around the apartment complex on Sunday night, and by Monday morning police were still investigating as residents went to work and took their kids to school. By Monday afternoon, a dive team was searching a pond for evidence.
Residents, religious leaders and township officials expressed shock that a quadruple homicide, one of the area’s deadliest incidents in the past decade, happened in their community .
In the frantic 911 call, a man tells dispatchers, “My wife and my family are on the ground bleeding.”
The dispatcher asks how many people are down, and the caller screams, “four, four, four.” He says the victims are bleeding from the head and he does not know if they are breathing.
The man is then heard screaming and pounding on doors for help. The dispatcher asks the caller if did anything to his family.
“No, I just got home,” he says.
Two additional 911 calls were placed by female apartment complex residents who said a man was banging on doors asking for help.
“Some guy is running around banging on all the doors saying help me,” one of the callers told the dispatcher.
Herzog said the first 911 caller is a relative who made the discovery. He said the man was never taken into custody.
“He was questioned as far as a witness of what occurred,” Herzog said.
He said during a news conference less than 24 hours after the homicides were discovered that police “ have plenty of witnesses so far that have come forward to tell us what they heard and what they saw, and we are following up on those leads.”
Multiple gunshots were fired in the apartment, and it does not appear that any of the residents returned fire, according to police.
While he said it is too early in the investigation to know for sure, Herzog said that “it does not appear that the shooter is among the dead.”
There were reports of smoke in the residence, whose cause was food left cooking on the stove.
“It appeared the (the victims) were in the middle of food preparation (when their deaths occurred),” Herzog said. There are children who live in the residence, but they were not present at the time of the violence.
Herzog said the residents were not known to police, stating in the past 10 years police an EMS squad had been called to the apartment for a handful of calls, including one theft report and one assault report.
“Just your normal calls for service,” he said.
The chief said the investigation with multiple victims is ongoing and complicated but added he does not believe there is a danger to township citizens.
“I don’t think there is any danger to the community; this seems to be isolated,” Herzog said.
He said there is no specific suspect or person of interest.
Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix and investigators arrived at the scene about 8:30 a.m. Monday and removed the victims. Autopsies were underway Monday afternoon at the county morgue.
Identification of the victims and causes of death will be announced by the coroner’s office.
Herzog said it is not the first time the department has investigated a multiple homicide. On Nov. 6, 2003, Tom West, then 50, walked into his former employer, Watkins Motor Lines, 6431 Centre Park Drive, carrying two handguns. He opened fire and then fled the scene.
He killed two men and injured three more during the shooting rampage. West’s attorneys said he had deep-seated paranoia. They said West believes Watkins was poisoning his food and planting bugs inside him.
He was initially found incompetent to stand trial. West eventually withdrew his initial plea of guilty by reason of insanity to avoid the death penalty by pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated murder and four counts of attempted aggravated murder.
He was was sentenced to life in prison.
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