Man kills 3, then himself; school mourns loss of classmate - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Man kills 3, then himself; school mourns loss of classmate

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Audra Sanders Audra Sanders
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PHOENIX -

There are new developments surrounding a triple murder in north Phoenix and students at Desert Shadows Elementary School are mourning the loss of Audra Sanders, an 8th grader who police say was one of the three people shot and killed by her father.

Counselors were on campus Wednesday to help students deal with the loss.

"I couldn't believe it. I was like really surprised when I heard it this morning.  Everyone at school was so sad.  We just weren't expecting it," said classmate Carolyn Smryk. "It was very quiet.  Everyone was just.. shocked.  It was very sad.. I'm pretty sure there wasn't a dry eye in the class."

The Paradise Valley School District released a statement:

"We are heartbroken over the loss of our student, a 14 year old child, and her family. The nature of their deaths is particularly difficult to accept. Audra Sanders was in the 8th grade and was a member of the school chorus. The principal of Desert Shadows Middle School visited Audra's classes this morning to inform her classmates and to share with them that a team of adults is available to them if they need assistance processing their thoughts and feelings. We will have counseling and support personnel at the school in the days ahead, as long as it appears they are needed. Our team is available not only to students and staff, but to members of our parent community as well."

The neighborhood where the victims lived is also shocked by the violence.

"You hate to see that.. and it's not right," said Richard Reed.

Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump says 53-year-old Michael Sanders killed himself at the end of Tuesday afternoon's rampage after apparently dragging his wife's body into the home's backyard and setting it on fire.

A medical examiner will need to formally identify the bodies. But Crump says investigators are confident the victims are Sanders' 51 year-old wife, Carol, 14-year-old daughter, Audra, and Carol's 49-year-old brother, Tom Fitzpatrick.

"Audra was just at the beginning of her life.. she was active in Girl Scouts, she was just a vibrant, vibrant young lady.  Carol was just the greatest coworker that you would ever want to have," said John Black, a friend of Carol's.

Crump says Carol Sanders had moved from the home and returned Tuesday after obtaining a protective order to retrieve belongings. Michael Sanders was supposed to leave but returned and shot all three before killing himself.

Follow this story:  Police identify suspect, victims in gruesome family murder

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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