3 people dead in apparent double murder-suicide in Strathcona County

Click to play video: '3 family members dead in apparent double murder-suicide in Strathcona County'
3 family members dead in apparent double murder-suicide in Strathcona County
WATCH ABOVE: Three family members, including a mother and teenage daughter, died in what appears to be a double murder-suicide southeast of Sherwood Park. Sarah Komadina has more on what we know about the family that lived in the rural Strathcona County home – May 5, 2020

Three people are dead in what police believe is a double murder-suicide in Strathcona County.

At around 6:14 a.m. Monday, RCMP responded to a 911 call of a man with a firearm at a home in the area of Township Road 520 and Range Road 222. Police asked people to avoid the area and some nearby properties were evacuated.

On Tuesday, RCMP said when officers entered the home, three people and one dog were found dead.

The RCMP said its Major Crimes Unit is “actively investigating what is believed to be the homicides of a 55-year-old woman and a 13-year-old girl.”

Police said a 53-year-old man died as the result of a self-inflicted injury. RCMP said all three people were members of the same family.

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“I can confirm that a mother and daughter died as a result of homicide and the male as a result of a self-inflicted injury,” Supt. Dave Kalist, detachment commander of Strathcona County RCMP, said.

“This is an extremely horrific situation and we ask that respect, support and privacy be directed to this family.”

Kalist said the 911 call came from another male family member who was in the house at the time, but he would not speak to the relationship to the victims or how the person is doing.

“There was another family member in the home. They left the property and they were the one who phoned 911,” Kalist said Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re not speculating on why this may have happened. Suffice it to say this is a tragedy where you have three deaths and there are family members that are still left behind to deal with this.”

Global News has learned Greg Gartner and Lois Paterson-Gartner lived in the home.

Greg was a founding member at Moodys Tax, according to the company website. The company posted a memorial to him that has since been removed.

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A neighbour told Global News the couple had two children living with them.

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Moodys Tax issued a statement to Global News about the incident.

“The Moodys Tax team is shocked and saddened by the tragic events regarding the loss of a colleague and his family,” the statement reads. “It is impossible for any of us to comprehend the heartbreaking event that occurred yesterday.

“Our heartfelt thoughts are with the family, friends and loved ones of all those involved. We are ensuring that our team has access to support during this difficult time.”

The company later updated its statement on its website and added that “no words can express the sense of loss and the difficulty of understanding this kind of tragedy. We are all grieving together.”

Kalist confirmed that a firearm was used in the incident, and that the firearm was legally owned.

“I can confirm that the firearm was not restricted or prohibited and it was legally owned.”

Kalist said his detachment has no prior record of any domestic or family-related violence involving this family.

The RCMP remained at the scene overnight and continue to investigate.

“Although we’re not going to have a trial as a result, we still need to ensure all the facts are gathered so that we have done a thorough investigation and ensured we have an accurate representation of what the facts were as a result of this incident,” Kalist said.

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Responding to calls like this can also be difficult on the members, Kalist said, ensuring support will be provided to those who need it.

“It is tough to deal with a lot of the time, so we’re making sure our members have the supports for their well-being after this incident so that they’re doing well and we will be monitoring that as we go. It’s a difficult job but I think we all know that when we join this police organization or any others, this is sometimes what you’re going to encounter,” he said.

“We take care of one another at the detachment level and then if we need professional help, we engage those resources as required.”

Click to play video: '3 family members dead in apparent double murder-suicide in Strathcona County'
3 family members dead in apparent double murder-suicide in Strathcona County

In a letter sent home to families with kids at Fultonvale Elementary Junior High School, principal Brad Cooksley said he was sorry to inform them a Grade 8 student from the school passed away on Monday.

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“Members of our school and community are shocked and deeply saddened over this loss,” Cooksley wrote.

District and school counsellors have been made available for students and staff as needed, he said. Anyone who wishes to speak with a counsellor in person is asked to phone the school first, because of restrictions in place around gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is natural for children to experience distress in cases such as this,” Cooksley wrote, encouraging parents to look for signs such as irritability, withdrawal from social settings, crying, lack of appetite and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

“Your own child may be distressed and have many questions. We encourage you to be aware of the signs and be supportive of your child by listening and letting them talk about their feelings.”

Click to play video: 'Strathcona County RCMP on dealing with tragedy of double murder-suicide'
Strathcona County RCMP on dealing with tragedy of double murder-suicide

Mayor Rod Frank issued a statement Tuesday, saying the community has “experienced a heart-wrenching loss of three lives.”

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“We grieve together. I know there is a lot of pain that remains, and tragedy affects everyone in different ways,” Frank said.

“I especially want to thank our emergency responders who did all they could in their response.”

The area is located about 25 kilometres east of Edmonton.

The RCMP are scheduled to speak to the media about the investigation at 3:15 p.m. Global News will live stream the media availability in this story post.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, call the 24-hour support line at 310-1818. Strathcona County Family and Community Services can also be reached at 780-464-4044.

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