The bodies of a mother and her two children were found inside a suburban Arizona home in what investigators believe was a murder-suicide, officials said.
Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies found Lisa Gerhart, 45, her 17-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter shot dead inside their Phoenix house about 9 p.m. Monday, Sheriff Joe Arpaio told reporters at a news conference.
Gerhart is believed to have shot her children before shooting herself, he said.
He noted the handgun was found near the body of the mother, who was found in a different room than her kids.
“We're looking at other aspects to make sure we get the correct evidence and conclusion to this sad situation,” Arpaio continued. “We’re leaving that little part open just in case someone else could have caused these three deaths. But I think we’re pretty confident it was a murder-suicide.”
Deputies were responding to a call from a neighbor who reported a running vehicle parked near the home with a hose running from the exhaust pipe to the inside of the home through a window. A dog inside the home was unharmed in the incident.
The county medical examiner’s office will determine if the children died from gunshot wounds or carbon monoxide from the car’s exhaust fumes.
Calling it “a very strange situation,” Arpaio said it was not yet clear what led to both the use of a gun and the carbon monoxide at the home.
“Right now we don’t know why,” he said. “We can just surmise.”
Gerhart and the victims’ father were separated and they are not believed to have any other children together, Arpaio said. It was not clear if there was a history of domestic violence.
The father has been contacted by authorities, he said.
“It’s sad,” he said. “Many of our deputies, including myself, are married and have children. But we have a job to do; I don’t know if you ever get used to it, but here we’re talking about a 12-year-old and a 17-year-old. Every life is precious, whether you’re 84, or you’re 12 or 2.”
Loved ones took to social media to express the sorrow and grief over the horrifying discovery.
“My heart is completely BROKEN,” a friend of Gerhart wrote on Facebook. “Devastated isn't a strong enough word to describe anything right now.”