TOLEDO, Ohio - Three children killed in what police believe was a murder-suicide carried out by their grandmother and uncle died of carbon monoxide poisoning, a coroner ruled Wednesday in a finding that confirms what investigators already suspected.
Autopsies show that the children and the two adults all died from the fumes pumped into a car where their bodies were found, said Cynthia Beisser, Lucas County deputy coroner.
Notes left behind indicate 54-year-old Sandy Ford and her son Andy, 32, planned the murder-suicide and filled their garage with the exhaust from a pickup truck, police said. All five were found dead Monday in the backseat of the car.
Investigators and family friends say what happened appears to stem from a family disagreement between the children's mother and her mom, Sandy Ford, over where the children should live.
For the past three years, the children ages 10, 7, and 5, had lived with their grandmother. Their mother asked her to care for them after another son at home had behavior problems and was becoming disruptive, according to children services workers.
But within the past week, the children moved back into their parents' home, angering the grandmother who believed the youngsters would be better off with her, according to children welfare workers.
Police were called to intervene twice last week, but they said there were no signs the children were in danger.
On Monday morning, Sandy Ford picked up the children from school not long after their mother dropped them off and took them back to her home, police said.
Authorities were called to the home by the children's frantic grandfather after he discovered the letters and was unable to force open the garage door.
Firefighters using a sledgehammer broke down the garage door to find the bodies of 5-year-old Madalyn Hayes, 7-year-old Logan and 10-year-old Paige slumped inside the car, along with their grandmother and uncle. Two hoses attached to the exhaust of a pickup truck pumped gas fumes through the car's rear window.
Toxicology tests on the children won't be available for six to eight weeks, Beisser said.
A funeral for the children is set for Monday in Toledo with visitation taking place this weekend.