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June 08, 2017 02:52 PM
The deaths this week of a Pennsylvania woman and her two young children have been ruled the result of a murder-suicide during a contentious divorce between the mom and her husband, PEOPLE confirms.
Carola Arnau, 40, was found dead in her burning home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, early Tuesday morning, according to authorities.
The dead bodies of her two kids, a 4-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, were discovered nearby in their beds.
Arnau died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, a Lancaster County Coroner’s office official tells PEOPLE.
Authorities believe she shot her daughter multiple times in the head and her son in the body multiple times as they slept, and then she killed herself.
At a news conference on Tuesday, officials said that earlier that morning, Arnau set her house on fire, shot her kids and then turned her handgun, which she purchased the day before, on herself. The exact order of events — the shooting and the fire — are still unclear.
“It appears they [the kids] were shot in their sleep, and there would not have been any struggle, as pathetic as a comfort that that is,” Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman told reporters.
Mark Pynes/PennLive.com via AP
Shortly after 2:45 a.m. Tuesday, a neighbor of Arnau’s called 911 after a motorist passing by the burning home and asked them to call police, Lancaster Online reports. First responders arrived on the scene minutes later and discovered the bodies. The family’s dog was also found dead.
Arnau’s husband, the children’s father, was working at the time of the fire but tried to run inside the home when he arrived on the scene, according to Lancaster Online. He was stopped by officials.
According to investigators, Arnau and her husband were in the midst of a “bitter” divorce, D.A. Stedman said Tuesday. While Arnau and their children lived in the main house, her husband was living in a detached garage.
“All the indications we have is that he was at work from 10 p.m. on and would not have been present at the time of these offenses,” Stedman said.
“Whatever disputes you have in your life and whatever issues you’ve got, when you see and hear news about children being murdered — and there’s no question they were murdered — then it takes it to a different level,” he continued.
Stedman said officials are investigating the couple’s history and Arnau’s mental health. She had been receiving treatment prior to the incident, according to a statement released by the district attorney’s office.
While officials have declined to identify the children, a candlelight vigil held on Wednesday night named them as Bella and Noah, Lancaster Online reports.
“There are very difficult days, and this is certainly one of them,” Stedman said Tuesday. “It’s so senseless.”