DETROIT | Authorities in Michigan are trying to determine if Michael VanDerLinden killed his family and then committed suicide by driving the wrong way Thursday on Interstate 94 near Michigan City, instantly killing a Portage man.
Police in Michigan said officers on Thursday went to VanDerLinden’s home in Belleville, Mich., to notify family of his death in the crash. After getting no response and finding the door ajar, officers found the bodies of VanDerLinden’s wife, Linda VanDerLinden and their two sons in separate bedrooms.
Van Buren Township police Capt. Gregory Laurain said an autopsy showed Linda VanDerLinden, 34, died of strangulation but had been stabbed in the chest.
The medical examiner’s report said Julien VanDerLinden, 7, and his brother, Matthew VanDerLinden, 4, were stabbed multiple times in the chest and arms, Laurain said.
He said investigators believe an 8 1/2-inch butcher knife found in the kitchen sink was the weapon used in the stabbings.
Michael VanDerLinden is “absolutely” suspected of killing his family, Laurain said. But he added, “We’re following up on the leads. While the husband, Michael, is suspected of being responsible for the killings, we have not reached any conclusion, and our investigation is still continuing.”
The discovery followed a violent crash on I-94 near the Indiana-Michigan state line.
About 1 a.m. Thursday, Michael VanDerLinden reportedly exited the rest stop at County Road 900 North about one mile south of the New Buffalo, Mich., exit traveling east in the westbound lanes.
VanDerLinden drove several hundred feet before hitting head on a car being driven by Juan Nelson Jr., 45, of Portage. Both cars burst into flames after the collision.
Both men were pronounced dead at the scene, and their bodies were severely burned, LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan said.
“We know from Indiana State Police, according to one of their witnesses, the vehicle that (VanDerLinden) was driving had its headlights turned off while on I-94 and at the time of the accident,” Laurain said. “We don’t know why. We don’t know if it was intentionally or accidentally.”
An evidence technician went through VanDerLinden’s vehicle after the crash but didn’t find anything valuable as evidence, Laurain said.