MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Two children and two adults found dead of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning from a gas-powered generator at a northwestern Indiana house may have been dead since Saturday, the Merrillville police said Thursday.
A relative found the family members dead Wednesday evening after going to check on them, Police Chief Joseph Petruch told The Times of Munster.
Petruch called the deaths "an unfortunate accident."
The family moved into the well-kept two-story rental home in Merrillville, just south of Gary, over the weekend, but police said the electricity had not been turned on. Police said the generator was inside an attached garage and had power cords going to several electronic devices, with all the home's exterior doors and windows closed.
The Lake County coroner's office identified those who died as 41-year-old Micheal Nichols, 38-year-old Kennetha Purnell, 13-year-old Matthew Nichols and 11-year-old Morgan Nichols.
Neighbor Janet Yaros told the Post-Tribune that she hadn't seen any activity at the house since the family moved in on Saturday. She said Purnell's mother and sister knocked on her door Wednesday night asking if she'd seen anything at the house.
"When (Purnell's) mother and sister came to my door last night I knew something was very wrong," Yaros said.
She said they were worried because Purnell had not been at work at Chicago State University for several days, which was unlike her.
Yaros said that's when the relatives called police.
"All of a sudden there was crime tape around the house and the sister was hysterical," Yaros said.
Ruth Lockhart, the property manager for the house, said the adults knew it was their responsibility to have the gas and electricity turned back on.
"I don't know what happened there," she said. "They were very kind people. The children were very kind and well-mannered. It's very sad, very tragic."
The deaths stunned neighbors.
"I live right behind them and watched them move in. I feel so bad," said Anna Mae Satanek, who fought back tears as she returned to her van.