Friday, November 29, 2013

Dad kills 9- and 13-year-old sons, their mom in murder-suicide (Pleasant Valley, New York)

Yet another family annihilator. This one is identified as dad SARWAT LODHI.

PLEASANT VALLEY — Finally, answers became available this evening regarding a tragic story that captivated Dutchess County for the last two days.

New York State Police announced at a 5 p.m. press conference that Pleasant Valley tragedy was the result of a murder-suicide perpetrated by Abbas Lodhi.

Police said he killed his wife, Sarwat Lodhi, at a location in the Town of Wappinger, where her body was found today near the Dutchess County Airport.

Abbas Lodhi and his two sons each died of a shotgun wound to the chest, according Dutchess County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kari Reiber.

"All three died of a shotgun wound to the chest," she said.

Police identified the sons as Mujtabah Lodhi, 13, and Zain Lodhi, 9.

Capt. John Ryan, of the Troop K Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said in a press conference this afternoon that the owner of a vacant home near the airport found Sarwat Lodhi's body this afternoon. He said it was by a stroke of luck that she was discovered and that it would not have been visible overhead, where police were searching by helicopter since Thursday.

State police public information officer Trooper Melissa McMorris said the person called 911 to report the body around 3 p.m. today.

Police found Abbas Lodhi, 49, and his son shot dead in a vehicle, along with a shotgun, at the Milestone Square shopping plaza parking lot on North Avenue in Pleasant Valley around 8:30 a.m. Thursday after a worker called 911 to alert authorities. Police later found another one of the man's sons shot dead at the family's apartment, about a mile away on West Road, state police said.

Before her body was discovered, state police said, "We do not feel that she’s a suspect," McMorris said. "Our theory is that she’s a victim."

Before the press conference today, police had not named any suspects in the case, but said they did not believe anyone outside the family was involved.

"We can't just jump to conclusions," McMorris said at the time. "We have to have some kind of evidence. We have a theory but we’re still looking for that missing piece."

Police have not confirmed the location of the family's home, but have confirmed that it is a private, gated community in Pleasant Valley.

Police said Zain Lodhi and his father, found in the vehicle in the shopping center, "appeared to have been fatally injured by a gunshot wound,” Maj. Robin Benziger, who commands state police Troop K.

Autopsies on all three are scheduled for today, which could provide investigators with a better timeline, McMorris said.

“The motive, at this time, is not clear,” Benziger said. “We believe this is a family tragedy and we have no reason to believe the public should be concerned for their safety.”

Capt. John Ryan, of the Troop K Bureau of Criminal Investigation, took questions at the Thursday news conference after Benziger spoke. He said he couldn’t confirm the deaths were the result of a murder-suicide.

A shotgun, found with the vehicle at the parking lot, was secured as evidence, Ryan said. New York state does not require a license for shotguns.

“That’s a weapon that was found at the scene,” he said.

Pleasant Valley residents Patty O’Brien, 33, and Jenifer Adams, 36, were among the numerous residents and volunteer firefighters who attended the news conference at the firehouse. Adams said there were seven police cars on her road earlier Thursday, and she wasn’t able to learn what was happening.

“My child called me and said, ‘There’s a helicopter hovering over our house — what’s going on?’ ” she said.

Despite assurances by police that the public was not in danger, Adams said she’s concerned. She said it’s also likely that one of her four children, who range from age 5 to 14, knew the victims.

“It’s terrible, terrible,” she said.

Dutchess County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kari Reiber said the autopsies are scheduled for today.

School district

In response to the police investigation, officials at the Arlington Central School district released a written statement on their website. The statement read, “They have assured us that there is no threat to any of our schools. The police have advised us that all schools should continue on their normal schedule.”

Later, district Superintendent Brendan Lyons said the two Arlington students were a fourth-grader at Joseph D’Aquanni West Road Intermediate School and an eighth-grader at LaGrange Middle School.

“As a school, our hearts grieve for these children and their family,” he said. “The entire Arlington community mourns the loss of these young lives.”

Counseling will be available today at both schools, Lyons said in the written release. Lyons said there is information on the Arlington website to help parents discuss the incident with their children.

Too close to home

Charlene Clark, 29, lives down the road from Brookside Meadows at the Pleasant Valley Estates.

She said family and friends called her all morning to make sure she and her son, Gavin, were safe.

“It’s way too close to home,” she said. “It seems like terrible things always happen around the holidays.”

Clark said her son was intrigued when he heard the helicopter. At first, she said, she didn’t think anything of it.

“As a mom, it’s terrible thing,” she added.

The investigation

Crime scene tape cordoned off nearly half of the parking lot outside the A&P supermarket until about noon Thursday.

Troopers, forensic specialists and police leadership were all working the scene Thursday. They could be seen walking around and talking amid a large number of state police SUVs, police cars, two Pleasant Valley firetrucks and an unmarked police van.

Rebecca Ogden, 24, of Hyde Park, works in the plaza. She said the scene was eerily similar to what she encountered when bomb experts — and many police — were called in to examine an unattended Makita power-tool carrying case in the Milestone Square shopping plaza on July 22.

As the troopers dispersed from the scene Thursday, one SUV followed a tow truck carrying a silver Nissan Pathfinder on its flatbed out of the parking lot. The Pathfinder did not appear to have any damage to its exterior.

Where the third body was found a state trooper stood in front of the black gate at the entrance on West Road as residents and police vehicles quietly went in and out.

A second vehicle was taken from this community — a white Honda Accord — police confirmed today.