A quiet residential neighborhood on the city's east side was coping Wednesday morning with an apparent murder-suicide that took the lives of two children — a 3-year-old girl and a boy, about 4 — and one man.
Police were alertedearly Wednesday when they took a report that a 36-year-old Wisconsin Rapids man had sent his brother a disturbing email in which he said goodbye to his family, according to police reports.
The report also noted that there were weapons in the home about four blocks from Witter Field baseball park.
When police entered the man's home with family members, they smelled a strong odor of natural gas and found three bodies, all of which had suffered gunshot wounds. They concluded that it likely was a double-murder and suicide but declined to answer any additional questions about the incident.
Mayor Zach Vruwink said Police Chief Kurt Heuer notified him about the deaths early Wednesday. Vruwink said he knows the 36-year-old man's father through the Elks Club and knows the man's brother.
"They were such a beautiful family and children; that's what touches me the most — that it's taken the lives of children," Vruwink said.
Vruwink said he had met the children's mother several times and they have many friends in common.
"It touches many of the people in the community, without question," Vruwink said.
Rick Vanderhei lives a block away from the scene. He said he walked around the area at 9 a.m. after noticing barricades near his home. Officers told him they couldn't say anything, but he later learned what police believe happened.
"It's shocking," he said. "Basically it's a pretty quiet neighborhood."
Vanderhei, who has lived in his home on 12th Street South for 50 years, said he didn't know the people believed to be involved, but remembers seeing people at the home from time to time.
Other neighbors said the family moved into the home a couple of years ago.
Wood County Sheriff Thomas Reichert, who has been with the department since 1982 and is the former juvenile issues investigator, said he can recall no other murder-suicide involving children taking place in the area.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.