VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Officers tasked with the grim job of notifying a woman about the death of her husband stumbled onto a grisly crime scene Thursday when no one responded at the suburban Detroit home, which had been left unlocked.
Inside, the woman and the couple’s two young children were found dead in separate bedrooms. Investigators were probing whether the man killed his family, then committed suicide by driving the wrong way on an interstate highway in neighboring Indiana, instantly killing a stranger, too, as he slammed into the man’s car.
Police agencies in Michigan and Indiana spent the day trying to connect the dots.
Authorities said they hadn’t turned up any suicide notes from Michael VanDerLinden, 39, who was killed in the fiery crash some 200 miles from the home where his family members were found dead.
“We have no other leads to push us to any other suspects. It’s one of those puzzles you have to put together,” said Van Buren Township police Capt. Gregory Laurain. “There is a lot of speculation right now that it could possibly be the father. We want to get a taste of the relationship of the people who lived here. … Were there problems here?”
Mr. VanDerLinden and the other driver, 45-year-old Juan Nelson, Jr., of Portage, Ind., were killed in the pre-dawn crash on Interstate 94 near Michigan City, not far from the Michigan state line, said John Sullivan, the coroner in LaPorte County, Ind.
Indiana State Police say Mr. VanDerLinden had just left a highway rest area, traveling east in the freeway’s westbound lanes, when he collided with Mr. Nelson’s car, engulfing both in flames.
The crash closed two westbound I-94 lanes for hours.
Police in semi-rural Van Buren Township, about 25 miles west of Detroit, were asked by Indiana authorities to notify Mr. VanDerLinden’s family about the crash. But when officers arrived about 8 a.m. no one answered the door.
Officers found one of the doors unlocked. Inside they found the bodies of the two boys, identified by neighbors as 7-year-old Julien and 4-year-old Matthew, in beds in their rooms. Their mother’s body was in her bedroom.
Public records showed Mr. VanDerLinden co-owned the house with his wife, 34-year-old Linda VanDerLinden. Officials weren’t confirming the identities of the bodies in the house.
Capt. Laurain said a possible murder weapon was recovered, but would not say how they were killed. Autopsies were scheduled for today.