A man and two women found dead in an Oakdale house each died of a single gunshot wound to the head in an apparent double murder-suicide, the Ramsey County medical examiner's office ruled Friday.
The shooting scene at the blue split-level house, which involved two parents and a babysitter, left other victims as well. A 6-year-old girl returning home from school Thursday found the bodies and ran screaming into the street with blood on her hands. She and her two brothers, ages 3 and 8, were left orphaned.
"When I heard the child found the bodies it really did break my heart," said Washington County Attorney Pete Orput, who expects the county might be asked to help with foster care. "I don't know what it would be like walking in to see your mom and dad dead. That's something that child will never get out of her head, ever."
The dead were identified as Cintia Guadalupe Ornelas Bustos, 28; Jaime Anival Almaras Velasquez, 32, and babysitter Angela Uscanga Gonzalez, 43.
Police declined to say who was responsible for the shooting because the investigation is not complete. But the medical examiner's office has determined that Velasquez committed suicide, said officer Michelle Stark.
A handgun and spent ammunition were found inside the house on the 7000 block of 13th Street.
Stark said that "the crime appears to have been entirely contained inside the residence" and that police weren't looking for additional suspects "at this time."
It was Oakdale's first homicide since 2007, when 17-year-old Nicole Beecroft stabbed her newborn baby to death. She is serving life in prison. The only other homicide there in the past 25 years was in 1986 when Gloria Oursland, 49, was found beaten to death.
Oscar Amparan, a pastor who counseled the Oakdale couple, said Thursday that Velasquez was "a little violent" and had previous problems with alcohol.
Bustos and Velasquez had three children together but the legal status of their relationship hasn't been confirmed, Stark said.
The youngest boy reportedly was inside the house when the shootings occurred, while the older boy was outside when his sister discovered the bodies. Police responded at 4:12 p.m.
Brady Hartman, a teenager who lives about four houses away, said he was outside when he saw the girl run out of the house sobbing and screaming, "Mommy, daddy dead! Mommy, daddy dead." His mother, Julie Hartman, tried to console the little girl.
"She is going to have a lot of trauma," Julie Hartman said. "She went in there. She had blood on her hands."
As police took the three children away, the 3-year-old boy could be heard saying over and over, "momma dead, momma dead," Hartman said. "He was in there alone."
The children currently are staying with relatives.
The violence shook the congregation at Iglesia Apostolica De La Fe En Cristo Jesus in Minneapolis, which Bustos and Gonzalez attended for seven years. The church at 1534 E. 24th St. is small -- just 21 pews in all. Maps of Guatemala and Mexico grace the back walls.
'A lovely lady'
At Iglesia Apostolica on Friday, Amparan rushed off to console mourners. Ezequiel Gonzalez, a church member, recalled how a grateful Uscanga Gonzalez, who had been having trouble finding work in Minneapolis, went to work for Bustos three months ago.
Bustos, a roofing company owner, needed child care and cooking and cleaning, he said.
Uscanga Gonzalez, he added, "was a lovely lady. Very lovely to everybody. Very nice."
"Everybody is asking, 'Why?'" he said.
Yosa Cortez, who is Uscanga Gonzalez's niece, said that she was married and had three adult children.
Amparan said Vasquez had gone to his native Guatemala in December and returned to Oakdale on Sunday. Relatives said Bustos was running their business, All Seasons Siding and Roofing, while he was gone.
Amparan said he had been at the couple's home Monday and Tuesday to counsel them and that he was surprised to see both of them at his church for services on Wednesday.
Hard to imagine much worse
Children who have witnessed violent death struggle with lifelong challenges because of tragic images stamped in their brains, said Anne St. Martin, a child trauma specialist at Human Services Inc. in Oakdale.
"It's hard for me to imagine much worse," she said of the Oakdale shootings. "Just to lose your beloved mom and dad and beloved caretaker would be really difficult, but to lose them in such a violent way and to carry that knowledge with you throughout your life would be really hard."
Children who see death and blood of loved ones will grow up lacking trust, will remain "always on the alert," and can run an emotional gamut from "being mute to states of rage that come out of nowhere," she said.
For young children, "the more attention they get at first the better," which involves soothing words, being held and rocked, being allowed to cry and to talk about their fears and grief, St. Martin said.