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3 Children Found Slain; Father Commits Suicide Nearby

February 20, 1995

KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. (AP) _ Three children were found slain in a burning van, and their father committed suicide a short distance away, authorities said.

The children, a 9-year-old girl, her 6-year-old brother and their 4-year-old sister, had been reported missing Saturday by their mother in Seaford, Del. Firefighters discovered the bodies Sunday after extinguishing a fire in a van in the parking lot of the First Flight airport, near the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

``We’re looking at it as a triple homicide and a suicide,″ said James Gradeless, Kill Devil Hills’ police chief. He wouldn’t say how the children died.

The children’s 35-year-old father apparently shot himself with a pistol after he was approached by two law enforcement officers in the woods near the airport, Greenville television station WNCT reported. Authorities would not comment on the report.

The children were picked up Saturday morning for a regular visit with their father, who is divorced from the mother. The mother reported them missing when they did not return by 5 p.m. as planned, said Cpl. Preston Lewis, a Delaware state police spokesman.

The woman told police her ex-husband ``always picked them up on time and dropped them off on time,″ Lewis said. ``That’s why she was so concerned when they didn’t show up.″

Investigators had trouble determining who was inside the van because the bodies were burned so badly.

``It was very difficult to determine what transpired,″ Dare County spokesman Charlie Hartig said.

Police and firefighters on Sunday combed the woods around the scene for evidence, but found nothing, Walker said.

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