PHOENIX (AP) – A Phoenix neighborhood became a chilling crime scene when a man killed his wife, their teenage daughter and another family member and set fire to his spouse’s body in the backyard, police said. He then killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Michael Sanders, 53, had been showing signs of angry and erratic behavior in recent months as he and his wife Carol were going through a divorce. It apparently escalated Tuesday as he fatally shot his 51-year-old wife; their daughter Audrey, 14; and Carol’s brother Tom Fitzpatrick, 49.
The carnage played out at about 4 p.m. and some neighbors witnessed part of the incident, which Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump said traumatized the quiet neighborhood. Police have not found a note or other message from Michael Sanders that might explain his actions.
“The anger it would take or the hurt it would take to kill your own daughter is unimaginable,” said Crump.
According to court records obtained by The Arizona Republic, Michael Sanders once drove his family into the desert, forced them to the ground and threatened them with a gun.
Carol Sanders had moved from the home and returned to retrieve belongings Tuesday after obtaining a protective order. Michael Sanders was supposed to leave but returned and shot all three with a semi-automatic handgun.
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, Crump said. Michael Sanders then confronted his daughter and wife in the garage, closing the open garage door. Neighbors then heard gunshots.
Arriving police weren’t sure if Michael Sanders had fled, so a SWAT team sent a robot inside and entered when they saw no sign he was there. Police found Audrey Sanders dead in the garage and Carol Sanders’ body ablaze in the backyard. They then located Michael Sanders’ body on a nearby neighborhood path, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A medical examiner will need to formally identify the bodies. But Crump said investigators are confident the victims are the wife, daughter and brother.
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