A mother and her three young children were found dead in a North Dakota home Thursday in an apparent triple murder-suicide, police said.
Astra Volk, 35, and her children -- Tyler Talmage, 14, Aidan Talmage, 10, and Arianna Talmage, 6 -- all died from gunshot wounds. A handgun was found at the scene in the Grand Forks home and police said no suspects were being sought. It was not immediately clear if the handgun found was the one used in the shootings, the Grand Forks Herald reported.
Police went to the home Thursday morning after administrators at Lewis and Clark Elementary School asked police to check on the family. The responding officer saw what appeared to be a body inside the home and went inside.
"You have a horrific scene that encapsulates a great tragedy and I think we're all going to be affected by that," Lt. Derik Zimmel of the Grand Forks Police Department said.
Grand Forks Public Schools said in a statement that families were notified and the district was working with the schools the children attended to provide support and counseling to students and staff.
Neighbors said the area is quiet and the house the family was found dead in “sat empty forever” until it was recently renovated. They said the woman was living there as a renter. Neighbor Paula Stevens, 58, told the Associated Press that she rarely saw the family because the woman worked odd hours and the long winter kept the kids indoors.
"This is scary," Stevens said. "Now I want to watch out for my neighbors and make sure they're OK."
The Grand Forks Herald reported Volk set up a GoFundMe account last week for help with “living expenses due to medical bills.” Volk wrote on the website that she and her two sons “suffer from mental illness, bi-polar, manic depression, autism and all had been hospitalized for this.”
“I work full time but my wages have recently been garnished for medical bills,” she wrote. “I’m looking for help with 1 month’s bills to help get on our feet and look for a second job. I am trying to stay positive so I do not end up back in the hospital.”
Court records showed Volk appeared in civil court three times during the past year “for collections totaling to $3,700.” Neighbors said it appeared she was a single mother and may have been separated from her husband, the children’s father.
Police are continuing to investigate the incident.
"It's a little frightening because Grand Forks is supposed to be like a safe town, a place where you can keep your doors unlocked," said Caralyne Ronai, a senior at the University of North Dakota who was walking through the neighborhood. "Four dead is upsetting to hear."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.