After days of rumors and uncertainty, investigators are now explaining how a mother and her two children died inside their home in Zimmerman, Minn.
On Tuesday, Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott confirmed that investigators believe 35-year-old Stephanie Shields drowned her two children, 7-year-old Nolan and 6-year-old Josephine, and then took her own life.
According to a preliminary ruling by the Ramsey County medical examiner, Nolan and Josephine Shields died from apparent freshwater drowning; however, investigators have not released details about how Stephanie Shields died.
The investigation is still ongoing, but the Sherburne County Sheriff's Office plans to withhold further comment until the results of toxicology testing have been further examined.
Neighbors who were close to the family say they are distraught, and they are trying to keep the children's surviving father protected. On Monday, the Minnesota National Guard identified him as Sgt. 1st Class Mark F. Shields.
Brott said Mark Shields had moved out of the home just last week, but he did not offer any additional information.
Deputies surrounded the Zimmerman home at 13309 5th Ave S. on Sunday and blocked access to the area after a neighbor discovered the bodies.
Brott said in a release that deputies arrived within minutes of the call, which came in at 10:03 a.m. on Easter Sunday.
Since then, the community has been searching for answers. Now, they say the information is almost impossible to process.
"That really bothered me to hear the children drowned," Brenda Seiler told FOX 9 News. "I don't know how. You can only assume what the mother had done -- to take her own life."
Students in Zimmerman returned to school from spring break on Tuesday without two of their classmates, and crisis counselors met with teachers in the morning. Grief counselors were also on hand through the day.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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