QUAKERTOWN, Pa. (AP) – Carbon monoxide apparently killed a married couple and their two children in an eastern Pennsylvania home where police found a car running in the garage, stunning friends and neighbors who recalled the family Tuesday as happy and outgoing.
It wasn’t clear whether the car was left running accidentally, or whether it was an intentional act. State police declined to comment on the investigation.
Police were called to the home in Milford Township, Bucks County, at 11:20 p.m. Monday.
“When troopers arrived at the residence, they found the house was clearly filled with high levels of carbon monoxide from a running vehicle in a garage below (inside) the residence,” state police Lt. Vincent D’Angelo said in a news release.
The fire department also responded and discovered the victims. Efforts to revive them were unsuccessful. All four “appeared to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning,” D’Angelo said.
Police identified the victims as Gary and Michele Reitnauer and their children, Kimberly, 16, and Jamie, 10. Property records show the couple bought their ranch-style home, at the end of a long driveway in rural Bucks County, in 1996.
“Good man,” a nephew, Rob Zern, told reporters as he left the home. “The family was trying to save each other and it didn’t work out … don’t know what all went wrong, but it’s a tragedy all around.”
The Quakertown Community School District announced the deaths on its website and said counselors would be made available to help grieving students and teachers.
Six high school classmates of Kimberly Reitnauer placed flowers on the family’s mailbox Tuesday afternoon, then formed a circle, clasped hands and prayed. Afterward, they remembered their friend as a highly intelligent student near the top of her class, and as a talented musician who played piano and trumpet. She was happy, kind and humble, they said.
“Everyone here loved her. She always had a smile on her face. Her whole family did. They were just the happiest people, and they made everyone else feel the same way,” said Aislinn Strohecker, 17, a close friend and neighbor.
Neighbors said there was no inkling of trouble in the Reitnauer home.
Michele Reitnauer, 58, gave Christmas cookies every year to a well-drilling company down the gravel road, and would fetch the company’s mail when she got her own, according to Gloria Mayberry, a secretary at the firm. Gary Reitnauer, 59, known as “Ozzy,” would use the bucket on his John Deere tractor to take his trash can to the end of the drive, a cigar usually hanging from his mouth, she recalled.
The children were adopted from China, according to Maggie Chambers, a neighbor and Strohecker’s mother. She said they were “just the sweetest family.”
“It’s not that kind of family. For me to even think for a minute that this was a deliberate thing, it’s just not them,” Chambers said. “It’s not.”
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