CLEARWATER — Susan Kinkead had long looked forward to the day her first-born son would graduate from high school, her mother said.
That day came Thursday as her 17-year-old son grasped the diploma so valued by his mother.
But she wasn't there.
The day before, the 35-year-old Clearwater mother of four was found dead in her bed, along with her husband, Eric Kinkead, 35. Police said they suspect the two died after overdosing on prescription medications.
Her 17-year-old son carried on.
"It was very important to her, so he did what she would have wished," said Susan Kinkead's mother, Bonita Dunn, of Largo.
Clearwater police went to the home at Park Place Apartments on Wednesday morning after a family friend called to say the couple's children hadn't seen them since Monday night, police said.
The investigation is continuing. Authorities are awaiting toxicology reports, but said they found prescription drugs in the apartment.
As recently as Sunday, things seemed fine, Dunn said. She said she saw the family at a gathering at the Kiwanis Sprayground in Dunedin.
"Eric looked like he didn't feel well, but Susan was fine," Dunn said.
Eric Kinkead had recently been released from the hospital, where he had been treated for a hip infection, said Dunn, 63.
"He hadn't been out (of the hospital) that long," she said. "He was having a hard time walking. His hip was hurting him."
Dunn said her daughter met Eric Kinkead online about a decade ago.
He traveled from Florida to North Carolina to meet her. "They've been together ever since," Dunn said.
Susan Kinkead had two children from a previous marriage, the 17-year-old and a 15-year-old boy. She and Eric later had a son, now 9, Dunn said. The St. Petersburg Times is not naming the children because of their ages.
The three boys will be cared for by the two older boy's biological father in North Carolina, Dunn said.
"It was Eric and Susan's wishes the three boys stay together. They told everybody," she said.
They also were raising a fourth child as their own, Susan's 5-year-old grandniece. She will live with Susan's best friend, Dunn said.
Susan Kinkead's niece, Ayesha Slavens, also of Largo, said she "adored" her aunt.
"They were very, very loving," said Slavens, 21. "Eric was a great husband to her and a great father."
Slavens lives with and cares for Dunn, her grandmother, who is recovering from open-heart surgery and has other medical issues.
They were together Wednesday morning when two detectives knocked on the door to tell them the couple had died.
"I thought 'car wreck' right away," Dunn said. "You don't think of them dying in bed."
Dunn said she was still trying to understand how the two died.
"It's the 'why?' that will never be answered," she said.
Dunn said her daughter was an intelligent and warm woman who was a whiz at computers and "laughed a lot." Eric was a dedicated father and husband who loved to tell jokes and pull good-natured pranks, she said.
Both had been laid off from their jobs over the past year or so and were unemployed, Dunn said.
Before they lost their jobs, they lived in a beautiful home with a big back yard, Slavens said. They had lived in the apartment complex "only a few months," she said.
The two oldest boys came to Dunn's home after the graduation Thursday. The gathering was somber, she said.
"She will be missed in their lives greatly," Dunn said. "They loved their mom."