Mom, dad, 2 kids were the four people found dead in rural Ontario home, mayor says

ESSEX, ONT. — A mother, father and two young children were found dead at a home in rural southwestern Ontario in a tragedy that has devastated the local community, the area's mayor said Friday as police offered few details on their investigation.

Ontario Provincial Police had taped off the tree-lined road that leads to the home, about 30 kilometres south of Windsor, Ont.

A bouquet of flowers and a teddy bear rested against a post, and a card left signed by members of the community reads "rest in peace."

"You are so missed, the loss is so great," it says.

Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy said the loss has had a "huge impact" on the community of Harrow, and there are mounting questions about what led to the deaths.

"We never expect anything like this to happen so close to home or to happen even at all," she said.

"Not having answers, not having closure and not having those members of our community here any longer is really difficult."

OPP said officers were called to a home on County Road 13 in Harrow around 1:30 p.m. Thursday and found four people dead. They have not released any details about the identities of those who died or the circumstances of their deaths.

The investigation is in its early stages and residents can expect to see a large police presence in the area, said Derek Rogers, OPP regional media relations coordinator.

"We are going to conduct a thorough and professional investigation," he said. "The loss of life is certainly difficult for anyone to understand, to process and to come to terms with."

Rogers said investigators do not believe there is any "imminent" public safety threat.

"This is an unimaginable tragedy in the community," he said.

Police would not say whether the case was being treated as suspicious but Rogers noted the criminal investigations branch was working on the case.

"To try to presuppose or speculate about what may or may not have happened at that location that led to the tragic deaths of four people would be inappropriate at this time," he said.

Bondy said the mother who died was active in the community, working local jobs, coaching soccer and working at the local youth centre.

"The mother was very involved," she said.

"We're a small, tight-knit community and everybody knows everybody ... everybody is really devastated."

The mayor urged residents to check in on each other and said the local community health centre would offer free counselling early next week.

"People in our community are not doing OK right now with financial stress, mental health stress," Bondy said.

"If you're going through something in your family, now is the time to connect and get help ... and if you know somebody that needs help, don't wait."

Bondy said her phone had been "active all day" with people offering supports and services. Flags have been lowered at the town hall, she said, and plans are in the works for a vigil.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2024.

By Rianna Lim with Jordan Omstead and Sheila Reid in Toronto, The Canadian Press