ORTING, Wash. - Authorities are investigating the deaths of five children in a mobile home between Orting and Graham, according to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.
The children are between seven and 16-years-old. The 7-year-old is a boy, and the rest are girls.
The bodies were discovered after the children's father apparently committed suicide in King County.
Sergeant Scott Near of the Auburn Police Department says at about 8 a.m., two children found the 34-year-old man's body inside a black 1999 Ford Expedition at a mobile home park in the 4200 block of Auburn Way South, near the Muckleshoot Casino. Near tells KING 5 News the man died of an apparent gunshot wound to the head. The engine of the SUV was running.
He had apparently killed himself with a rifle, but left no note in the car, Near said. The case was treated as a suicide.
King County authorities asked Pierce County deputies to do a welfare check at the man's home.
When deputies arrived at the home, located in a mobile home park in the 20400 block of 135th Street Court East, they found the children's bodies. Investigators told The News Tribune the children apparently were victims of homicidal violence. According to the News Tribune report, four of the children were found in their beds and one in the mobile home's bathroom.
Troyer says the child's mother, who apparently was not at the mobile home at the time of the shooting, is being comforted by friends and relatives.
According to the News Tribune, neighbors said they had heard the couple arguing loudly Friday night and then believe they saw the mother leave by herself.
"Clearly she's been very traumatized," Troyer told The News Tribune. "You kind of get hardened to seeing people who are killed because of their own bad actions. But these kids died through no fault of their own. This is something you never want to see."
Neighbors in the Deer Run mobile home park, a neat, well-kept community nestled among towering evergreens, were shocked and weeping at the news.
"How could something like this happen?" asked Mary Riplinger, whose kids were playmates of the slain children. "Everyone's asking: Why did he do it? It's not right."
Another neighbor, Dale Lund, told The Seattle Times the 7-year-old boy who was killed played at times with his grandson and the boys shared the same school bus stop and attended the same elementary school together.
He said the dead boy played in his own yard most of the time.
"They pretty much kept to themselves over there," said Lund, who had never spoken with the parents even though they were neighbors for about a year.
The mother's aunt, Penny Flansburg, was at a loss to explain the crime.
"They were pleasant together," Flansburg said. "We can't even figure out why."
Flansburg identified the couple as Angela and James Harrison and the children as Maxine, Samantha, Heather, Jamie and James. The father worked as a diesel mechanic, and the mother works at Wal-Mart, Flansburg said.
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor described the crime as a "horrible thing."
"This was not a tragedy. It was a rotten murder," Pastor said. "This appears to be the terrible work of the biological father. If that doesn't break your heart, I don't know what does."
The King County Medical Examiner's Office is performing an autopsy on the man's body. Results are expected to be released on Monday.