What researchers call "familicide," where a perpetrator kills one or more family members, are "mercifully rare" according to a
Nationally, about 1,000-1,500 people die each year
Over the past three years, Alaska has seen a cluster of killings in which a father or stepfather is believed to have killed his wife or girlfriend and a child or children. In the Fairbanks case, Hutton is suspected also to have killed his mother.
In each of the recent Alaska cases, four people have died, including the perpetrator.
Each of the incidents happened in a different region of the state — the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage and Fairbanks.
In May 2014, Rebecca Adams, 23; her two children, Michelle Hundley, 6, and Jaracca Hundley, 3; and Adams' boyfriend Brandon Jividen, 37, went missing from their apartment in Kenai. Their remains
And on Friday, police arrived at a Hampton Inn on the outskirts of Fairbanks to find a still-unidentified man crying in a hallway and the bodies of McKay Hutton, 22, his wife Emily McDonald, 22, their newborn daughter Teagan, 8 weeks, and Hutton's mother Linda Hutton, 54. Fairbanks police say
In cases studied using data from the Centers for Disease Control's National Violent Death Reporting System, men were the killers 91 percent of the time. In 88 percent of cases, a gun was used.
In the Fairbanks case, there were hints of trouble.
Destiny Buonacorsi met Emily McDonald at Hutchison High School in Fairbanks. Both had babies young and became close friends, meeting up at parks to let their toddlers play, taking them trick-or-treating together.
But when McDonald, who worked as a nursing aide in North Pole, started dating Hutton in 2015, she and Buonacorsi grew apart. McDonald got a new phone number and the couple moved back in with her parents, Buonacorsi said.
"It was just kind of weird that she was backtracking like that," she said.
Outwardly, Hutton gushed about McDonald on Facebook. But McDonald privately admitted to problems, according to her friend.
"She would tell me he would say really mean things to her," Buonacorsi said. "I'd say, 'Why do you stay with him?' and she'd say, 'Because he loves me; he's going through some pain right now.'"
In May, "she told me she was sleeping in her car because they got into an argument," Buonacorsi said.
Every time Buonacorsi saw him, Hutton was open-carrying a handgun — not unusual in Fairbanks.
The friends last spoke around May. When she heard the news last week that four people had been found dead in a Fairbanks hotel room, Buonacorsi said she was struck with a sick feeling that McDonald might be one.
Much harder to unravel in family murder-suicides is the biggest question: Why? Because the perpetrator is dead, there are no criminal proceedings to unravel the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.
Police in two of the Alaska cases say they were never able to definitively establish a motive for the killings.
In the case of Desiree Gonzalez, there was a previous history of abuse. Her father told Alaska Dispatch News
But police still don't know what happened on that day that led to the slayings.
Detectives interviewed family members and friends in search of a motive but "ultimately we were never able to develop a motive in this case," said Jennifer Castro, spokeswoman with the Anchorage Police Department.