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Motive unclear in Superior murder-suicide

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Site of murder-suicide
Superior police and medical personnel remove one of the bodies out of a house where three people were found dead and place it into the Douglas County medical examiner's van in Superior, Wis. Police say a veteran of the war in Iraq apparently killed his pregnant wife and their daughter before committing suicide.
AP Photo/Duluth News-Tribune, Bob King

Police in Superior, Wis., have released details on an apparent murder-suicide. They believe an Iraqi war veteran shot and killed his pregnant wife, 13-month-old daughter and three dogs before taking his own life. 

  Police are still searching for a motive in the shootings, which happened Tuesday at the family's Superior home. 

Superior Police Chief Floyd Peters identified the three who died as Matthew Magdzas, 23, his wife  April Oles-Magdzas, 26, and their daughter Lila,  who was 13 months. 

Oles-Magdzas was also pregnant and due to give birth to the couple' second child this week. 

"It is with heavy hearts that we meet with you concerning the incomprehensible tragedy that we discovered in our community yesterday afternoon," said chief Peters, who added that three dogs were also dead of gunshot wounds.  

The mother of April Oles-Magdzas called 911 from the couple's home on Wednesday afternoon to report the deaths.  

Family members of Oles-Magdzas told MPR News the couple had marital problems. 

Her father said the two had separated for a few weeks, but seemed to be working things out. He said his daughter recently told him that things were getting better with her husband. 

Collecting evidence
Superior, Wis., Police Department investigators gather evidence from a sidewalk outside a house where three people were found dead Wednesday. Police say a veteran of the war in Iraq apparently killed his pregnant wife and their daughter before committing suicide.
AP Photo/Duluth News-Tribune, Clint Austin

Oles-Magdzas attended Carlton High School in Carlton, Minn., and worked as a cheerleading coach at Duluth East High School. 

Matthew Magdzas was a veteran of the Wisconsin National Guard who returned from Iraq three years ago.  He enlisted in 2004 and was assigned to the Superior-based 950th Engineer Company. Magdzas  had been in a non-drilling status for about a year. 

Magdzas' unit escorted convoys between Kuwait and northern Iraq and saw a lot of combat. He earned a Purple Heart for service with the Guard.  At least two members of his unit were killed in Iraq, according to Wisconsin National Guard Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie.    

"It's a war zone and people see violence," said Guthrie.  "I can't speak for Matthew and tell you what he did and did not experience. This is a sad day for the state of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin National Guard."

Triple homicide
An American and Iraqi flag fly from the porch of the home in Superior where police say it appears an Iraq war veteran killed his pregnant wife, their 13-month-old child, and himself. The investigation is continuing.
MPR Photo/Stephanie Hemphill

The Veterans Administration wouldn't say whether Magdzas was receiving services at any VA facilities, but his wife's family members say Magdzas suffered a back injury and was also believed to have post-traumatic stress disorder. They say he was receiving disability payments from the VA. 

Police have no record of calls to the Magdzas residence, and say Magdzas had no adult arrest record in Superior.

Neighbor Mavis Hoskins said the family seemed happy, but Matthew Magdzas appeared "distant." She recognized his look from her nephew, who has also served in the military. 

"I saw him and his wife and the baby with the stroller, walking down the street. And they seemed so in love and so happy, but yet there is always that distance, you know?" she said. 

Hoskins is working on plans for a memorial service in the neighborhood. 

Family members of April Oles-Magdzas say they are hoping to hold funeral services at a church in Cloquet once the police investigation is complete.