Police seek answers after 7 found dead in Kirksville duplex

Monday, December 18, 2006

KIRKSVILLE, Mo. (AP) -- Two young children were among the seven people found dead after a 911 call reported a "strange odor" from a duplex apartment in this northeast Missouri town, police said Monday.

The bodies were discovered around 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Police Monday did not identify the victims but said all seven were Kirksville residents. They included a 23-year-old resident of the home, her 23-month-old daughter and her 1-year-old son. The woman also had a 4-year-old child who lived there, but that child was not at home and has been accounted for, Police Chief Jim Hughes said.

Other victims were two 21-year-old men, a 19-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman. Police weren't sure how many lived in the apartment and were trying to determine their relationships.

Hughes would not speculate on the cause of death, nor would he speculate about the possibility of foul play.

"It is tempting in a high-profile case such as this to prematurely speculate on the cause of death and whether that cause was the result of some type of wrongdoing," Hughes said. "Well, we're not going to do that."

The chief did confirm a reading on a fire department sensor indicated a high level of carbon monoxide.

"It's a very critical element of our investigation," Hughes said.

The home heating system was functioning properly and was not the source of any problem, Hughes said. A van parked in the garage was taken to a crime lab, but Hughes would not say if the van was running when police arrived. The lab is also looking at a second van parked on the driveway.

All seven bodies were taken to a medical examiner's office in Columbia for autopsies. Hughes expected results no later than Tuesday.

Hughes said dispatchers received 911 calls from "juvenile girls" who tried for several hours to contact people inside the home. They also reported a strange odor.

When paramedics arrived, they found the victims in three different rooms. Hughes would not discuss details about how they were found, but he said it did not appear anyone tried to get out of the house.

Authorities weren't sure exactly how long those inside had been dead, but they believe the victims were found within 24 hours.

The yellow duplex sits on the corner of a quiet cul-de-sac a few blocks from the Truman State University campus. Ten duplexes, all neatly kept, line the street, and a swing set sits in the backyard of the home where the bodies were found.

"It's horrible," said Regina Lee, who lives two doors down from the duplex. "To find seven people in there. I just can't understand it."

A large crowd, including many relatives of the victims, gathered in the street near the taped-off investigation scene Sunday night seeking answers. After helping make preliminary identification of the victims, many in the crowd cried.

Hughes said no suspects were being sought for the time being.

Kirksville, a town of 17,000 residents, is about 30 miles south of the Iowa border and 165 miles northwest of St. Louis.

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