Police: Kids killed because wife leaving

April 5, 2009 2:23:22 PM PDT
Investigators believe a man fatally shot his five children in their home and killed himself after he found out his wife was leaving him for another man, a sheriff's spokesman said Sunday. The bodies of James Harrison's children were found Saturday in the family's mobile home in Graham, about 15 southeast of Tacoma. Harrison had been found earlier in the day, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot, behind the wheel of his car in Auburn, about 18 miles north of Graham.

Authorities haven't released the family's name, but relatives have identified them as the Harrisons.

The man and his 16-year-old daughter had found his wife with another man at a store in Auburn on Friday night, Pierce County Sheriff spokesman Ed Troyer told The News Tribune of Tacoma.

Ryan Peden, the daughter's classmate, had said she told him Friday night that her parents had gotten into a fight and her mother had left. The father followed the mother and tried to get her to return, said Peden.

Troyer said the woman told her husband she was not going home and that she was leaving him for the man with her at the store.

"He was devastated," Troyer said.

Investigators believe the father later killed his children and returned to the area near the store looking for his wife. His body was found near the store, Troyer said. He left no suicide note.

Troyer did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press, but sent an e-mail confirming his account to The News Tribune.

Four of the children were shot in their beds and the fifth was shot in the bathroom, Pierce County deputies said. Auburn Police Sgt. Scott Near said their father had apparently killed himself with a rifle.

Neighbor Ron Vorak said he called 911 at about 3:20 p.m. Saturday after one of the Harrisons' relatives couldn't get anyone to answer the door.

"He knocked on the door, and knocked on a couple of windows," Vorak said of the relative. "He walked around the side of the house, looked into the window. He could see somebody laying on the bed."

On Sunday, the mobile home where the five children ages 7 to 16 were slain became a makeshift memorial as neighbors left cards and bouquets of flowers. School officials said they were making arrangements to have grief counselors available when teachers and students returned to school.

"We're going to try to get through this the best we can given the circumstances," said Jeff Davis, Orting School District superintendent. "In a small community like this, we know these kids. Teachers know the kids. All the kids know the kids."

Davis said the eldest, Maxine, was a 10th grader at Orting High School. Jamie was in the eighth grade and her sister Samantha in the sixth grade at Orting Middle School. The two youngest, Heather and James, were second-graders at Orting Primary School.

Carolyn and Raymond Bader, a former neighbor of the family, told The Seattle Times they often heard the father yelling at the children. The Baders said they called the sheriff's department and Child Protective Services several times with their concerns.

"We did all we could to help these kids," Raymond Bader said. "We tried to protect these kids. We did what we could."

One neighbor, Sherre Lund, who lives in the mobile home park, signed a community notebook left in from of the family's house. She wrote: "God Bless the five little ones. God bring peace to Mom."

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Associated Press photographer Ted S. Warren contributed to this report.

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