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Police go to notify family of traffic fatality, find three dead in house

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's body and the couple's two young children were found dead in separate bedrooms. Investigators were looking into 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 a suicide note from Michael VanDerLinden, 39, who died in the fiery crash about 200 miles away.

"We have no other leads to push us to any other suspects. It's one of those puzzles you have to put together," said Gregory Laurain, the police captain in Van Buren Township, Mich. "There is a lot of speculation right now that it could possibly be the father."

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 VanDerLinden had just left a highway rest area and was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of the freeway when he collided with Nelson's car, engulfing both in flames. The crash closed two westbound lanes of I-94 for several hours.

Police in the semi-rural Van Buren Township, about 25 miles west of Detroit, were asked by Indiana authorities to notify VanDerLinden's family about the crash. But when officers arrived about 8 a.m., no one answered the door. Officers went back to the house and found a door 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 own rooms. Their mother's body was found in her bedroom.

"There were no signs of forced entry. No signs of robbery," Laurain said.

Public records showed VanDerLinden co-owned the house with his wife, Linda VanDerLinden, 34.

Officials weren't confirming the identities of the bodies in the house. Laurain said a possible murder weapon was recovered, but he would not say how they were killed. Autopsies were scheduled for today.

Police go to notify family of traffic fatality, find three dead in house 08/16/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 16, 2012 10:44pm]
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