Police identify suspect, victims in gruesome family murder - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Police identify suspect, victims in gruesome family murder

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PHOENIX -

A violent family fight ends with four people dead, but it's the horrific and gruesome way they were killed that has shaken this northeast Phoenix neighborhood and even the most veteran of police officers.

An entire neighborhood near 51st Street and Thunderbird Road was evacuated while police tried to figure out if the shooter was still on the loose.

Later in the day, police confirmed that the shooter's body was found, along with some more disturbing details about this crime.

Police tell us it all started as a case of domestic violence and in the end, the four people who ended up dead were the suspected shooter, his estranged wife -- who was set on fire, male relative of the wife and their teenage daughter.

Police have identified the shooter as 53-year-old Michael Sanders, and the victims as his wife, 51-year-old Carol Sanders, their daughter, 14-year-old Audrey Sanders and Carol's brother, 49-year-old Tom Fitzpatrick.

This began around 4 p.m. on Tuesday when neighbors called 911 after hearing shots fired.  Police tell us dispatchers could hear the shots being fired in the background as they took the calls.

Authorities say Carol Sanders, who lived at the home, was going through a divorce with her husband, Michael Sanders, and came to the home to get some belongings.  She was with her daughter, Audrey, and her brother, Fitzpatrick. Police say that's when her estranged husband showed up at the scene and began shooting.

He first shot and killed Fitzpatrick, who was sitting in a pickup truck that was backed into the home's driveway, apparently to fill with belongings, Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump said. Michael Sanders then confronted his daughter and wife in the garage, closing the open garage door. Neighbors then heard gunshots.

Fitzpatrick was found dead in the driveway. Audrey Sanders was found dead inside the house.  Carol Sanders was found in the backyard and she had been set on fire.

"I hadn't seen a case that I can think of recently.. I guess I've seen people burned, but.. it certainly is a horrific scene," said Crump.

Police tell us Carol Sanders had an order of protection taken out against her husband and this whole situation started a standoff in the neighborhood that lasted into the night, causing neighbors to be evacuated until the SWAT team went in with a robot.  They found Michael Sanders was not inside the home and that's when they discovered the horrific scene inside and outside of the house.

Police did find Michael Sanders not too far from the scene -- he was dead in an alley.  They believe he shot himself.

A neighbor of the Sanders' didn't expect anything like this to ever happen to the family.

"It took me by surprise, what actually happened, because [Michael Sanders] was very protective of his daughter. He would walk her to the bus stop every morning, he would pick her up from the bus stop and walk her home," said Richard Reed, a neighbor.

Police say they were at the scene about a month ago after a 911 call was placed about the same man threatening to commit suicide.

We've also learned that there was some sort of court hearing that was scheduled for Nov. 12 between the couple.  It's unknown if that hearing happened, but police say it may have had something to do with the violence that exploded in this neighborhood.

Police have not found a note or other message from Michael Sanders that might explain his actions.

"It is absolutely a chilling scene," Crump said. "The anger it would take or the hurt it would take to kill your own daughter is unimaginable."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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