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UPDATE - Why? Murder-suicide eludes answers

Wire • Apr 18, 2011 at 6:58 PM

UPDATED WITH 9-1-1 CALL - Investigators have questioned friends and relatives of the man who killed his family before turning the gun on himself early Saturday and they have scoured the rural home where the deaths took place.

But still they are eluded by answers to the question, 'Why?'.

"Why he did what he did is still a mystery," Ottawa County Sheriff Bob Bratton said of the actions of shooter Alan Atwater. "What pushed him to do what he did, what was so bad? I don't know. I'm not sure we're ever going to find that out."

Sheriff's deputies sped to the home at 964 Leutz Rd. shortly after midnight after receiving a 911 call from Atwater. He calmly told the dispatcher that his family had been killed and that he intended to take his own life.

When asked if he was the shooter, he said he was.

Inside the home, responders found five bodies, two guns, and few answers.

The bodies of Atwater, 31, his wife, Dawn, 30, and their three children, Ashley, 4, Isaac, 2, and Brady, 1, were found shot to death in one room.

Sunday, the sheriff said a handgun and shotgun were taken from the home. He said one, "if not both," were used.

"I'm just hoping that we can find something," Sheriff Bratton said. "Maybe someone will come forward, a friend of either Alan or Dawn. ... Maybe there is something that will open something up for us."

According to interviews with friends and family, the couple had "marital issues," the sheriff said.

But he said nothing had been substantiated and there were never domestic issues at the home that required his office to respond.

Investigators from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation of the Ohio Attorney General's Office were at the home Saturday to analyze and process the scene. The sheriff said they are waiting for toxicology test results to determine if Atwater had been drinking alcohol or using drugs.

Investigators will talk to a police psychologist in an effort to determine what happened, Sheriff Bratton said.

All that has been learned so far, according to the sheriff, was that the couple had "an up-and-down financial situation."

Atwater was employed full time at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and his wife was a stay-at-home mother.

Family members of Mrs. Atwater could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Alan Atwater's mother declined to comment to The Blade.

Atwater's step-grandmother, Joan Atwater, said the families had come together to discuss funeral arrangements, but the arrangements had not been finalized.

"Our family is doing pretty well," she said. "It's something we have to accept. We don't want to, but we have to."

The sheriff said he had been in touch with both families. And while Saturday brought on the initial shock, yesterday was a day to try to understand what happened.

The home that the night before was swarming with sheriff's cars was quiet Sunday afternoon. The couple's two vehicles still stood in the driveway and a lone cat sat on the back porch.

The only evidence of a brutal crime were two strips of red evidence tape on the front and back doors, sealing them.

Sheriff Bratton said autopsies scheduled for today may help investigators determine how each person was shot.

As for why, he said he's not sure those are answers investigators will be able to pinpoint.

"I wish I had the answers," he said. "All we can do is try to piece it together."


By Erica Blake - The Blade, Toledo (MCT)

Copyright (c) 2011, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

To see more of The Blade, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.toledoblade.com.

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