STRASBURG, Pa. - Authorities say that a Pennsylvania mother bought a firearm the day before fatally shooting her two young children, setting her house on fire, and then turning the gun onto her self.
The bodies of Carola Arnau, 40, her 10-year-old daughter and her 4-year-old son were found in their Strasburg home early Tuesday morning. The family dog also was found dead.
"I tell people, in my job, some days are worse than others, and this is one of the worst, and certainly one of the darkest," Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said during a news conference.
Emergency responders were called to the home at about 3:20 a.m. Tuesday.
Dr. Stephen Diamantoni, the Lancaster County coroner, ruled the deaths a murder-suicide after autopsies Wednesday morning.
He says Arnau shot her 10-year-old daughter multiple times in the head and her 4-year-old son multiple times in the body.
Stedman said that Arnau's husband, Miguel, had been at work from 10 p.m. the previous evening "and would have not been present at the time of these offenses."
Stedman said the couple had been going through "somewhat of a bitter divorce" and the situation had been "escalating." CBS affiliate WHP reports that since filing in 2016, they've been involved in a custody dispute, which they decided in April to handle out of court. Agreeing that Miguel would have visitation before and after school as well as every other weekend.
Miguel also moved into the garage behind the home the family once shared. Prior to this agreement, he'd not been able to see his children since February when Carola filed a protection from abuse order. Those abuse claims were investigated and ruled unfounded.
"Police investigated it. No disclosure, no evidence other than her complaint," says Stedman. "She was not coming from a place of reasonableness."
WHP reports that Lancaster County District Attorney's Office says that Arnau intentionally set fires at multiple locations in the home and detached garage with the use of an accelerant.
"Two fires, one would be in the garage where his stuff was, consistent with her want[ing] to eliminate every possible thing that could've mattered to him, taking it from this earth," says Stedman.
Stedman said he wasn't releasing the names of the children because he was concerned their classmates could hear of their deaths in television reports.
He said the "only small comfort" is that the children appeared to have been shot in their sleep.
Ron Rannels, 70, who lives nearby, described the family as "very nice," and recalled seeing the father pulling the two children down the street in a wagon, stopping by his house to pick flowers for their mother.
"I'll tell you it's really tough. They were so nice. ... Everybody got along with them," Rannels told LNP newspaper.