KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. (AP) _ Police say a man who shot his three children in the head and then committed suicide may have copied another Delaware man who did the same thing nine days earlier.

The bodies of Douglas J. Mont's children _ ages 9, 6 and 4 _ were found in a burning van Sunday in an airport parking lot. When he was confronted by police in woods about 150 feet away from the van, Mont shot himself in the head.

On Feb. 10, 24-year-old Kenneth Bradner, distraught over a recent separation from his wife, shot his two children in the head as they slept in his Delaware mobile home. He then shot himself.

Unlike Mont, Bradner did not have visitation rights to his children. A court had denied Bradner's petition for emergency custody of 4-year-old Kelly and 2-year-old Richard; his wife said he tricked her into believing the court had given him custody.

Bradner died just 15 miles from Seaford, Del., where Mont's children lived with his estranged wife.

Investigators said they didn't know why Mont took his children to North Carolina or why they were killed.

``It's not a Kill Devil Hills story,'' said Police Chief James Gradeless. ``It's an American story. It bothers all of our consciences because somewhere, some place, society has failed to prevent this kind of thing from happening.''

Delaware State Police spokesman Cpl. Preston Lewis said Mont may have been influenced by Bradner, but ``we just can't say it's a copycat effect.''

After Mont separated from his wife, Nancy, in August, he wasn't allowed to keep his children overnight.

Ms. Mont reported 9-year-old Catrina, 6-year-old Daniel and 4-year-old Theresa missing Saturday after they didn't return from a visit with their father.

About 1:30 a.m. Sunday, a passerby spotted a blazing Ford Aerostar in a parking lot at the First Flight airport in Kill Devil Hills, a town of 4,200 a short distance from Kitty Hawk, where the Wright brothers made aviation history.

Firefighters didn't discover the children inside until they had extinguished the flames.

Police searching the woods for clues found Mont lying on his stomach. When they asked him to put his hands up, he raised his right hand in the air, raised a handgun to his ear with his left hand and shot himself, Gradeless said.

Gradeless said the children were killed with the same gun Mont used to shoot himself, and that they were dead before the fire broke out.

Tenants in Mont's six-bedroom rooming house in Frankford, Del., were shocked by the killings.

``They were very devoted parents. He didn't drink or anything,'' said Mary Apgar, who recently sold the boarding home. ``The other tenants knew the children, too, and everyone is grieving right now.''

Court records show Nancy Mont accused her husband of abusing her last year, but state police said no charges were filed.

Neighbors Cory and Chris Jones, who live down the street with their three children, said Ms. Mont changed her routine after she and Mont separated, driving her children to and from the school bus stop rather than letting them walk alone.

On Monday morning, a green basket of silk flowers had been placed where the burning van was found, with a sign saying ``three little angels from Alex, Sam and Ray.''

Later, Sheila Scheck, who lives near the airport, visited the scene with flowers. ``May God Bless These Children,'' her arrangement said.

Mont ``deserved a lot worse than he did to himself. I know that for sure,'' Scheck said. ``It was so close here and I've got a child of my own. I guess that's why it bothered me so much.''