Patricia Saunders, whose husband on Saturday killed their two young children and himself, shot a sheriff's deputy, and stabbed her, told her family she had planned to leave him and that's what led to the tragedy.
"We think the reason was she was concerned for the safety of her kids and trying to leave an unhealthy relationship the best way she knew possible," said Jerry Staczek, Mrs. Saunder's brother. "He was obviously unresponsive to that, and the situation unfolded from there."
The Staczeks would not speak in detail about the victim's husband, Clarence Saunders II, 58, who went by Jack.
Jerry Staczek, along with Ms. Saunders' father, Jim Staczek, and other brother, Michael, sifted through the possible reasons for the attack and their emotions yesterday at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, where Ms. Saunders was recovering from stab wounds.
She was stabbed Saturday morning at their Swancreek Township minifarm on County Road E, where Saunders later shot Fulton County sheriff's Deputy Rick Brock in the shoulder, killed the couple's children - 10-year-old Lauren and 5-year-old Jacob - and then himself.
Deputy Brock, who has been released from St. Vincent, never fired any shots, Fulton County Sheriff Darrell Merillat said.
It wasn't the first time Saunders was violent with his family, according to records.
He was sent to the Toledo House of Correction, known as the workhouse, in Whitehouse and later moved to an Ann Arbor mental hospital after assaulting his first wife in 1971 while on probation for illegal possession of a narcotic drug, according to Wood County Common Pleas Court records.
Ten years later, in July, 1981, he was indicted by another Wood County grand jury for two counts of drug trafficking and two counts of drug abuse, involving hashish, phentermine, quaaludes, and cocaine. With a search warrant based on an affidavit from a Toledo police officer, Wood County sheriff's deputies searched his West River Road home and seized six rifles, ammunition, and money in addition to the drugs.
The Toledo officer's affidavit stated that four police informants said Saunders had been selling cocaine from his home. He was sentenced to five years probation and given a suspended prison sentence.
Saunders was born into a well-to-do family on River Road, the son of an alfalfa mill entrepreneur, but he completed only the 10th grade at Anthony Wayne High School, according to a statement he made in court in 1981 and the school's records.
His first marriage occurred five days after he turned 18 and he became a father six months later. Before they divorced in the late 1970s, Saunders and his then-wife, Judy, had two more children.
Patricia Saunders, 40, is about the same age as his children from that first marriage.
The-then Patricia Staczek was riding with Saunders' daughter, Beth Behnfeldt, in 1989 when the pickup Mrs. Behnfeldt was driving overturned on State Rt. 295. Mrs. Behnfeldt, who was 22, was killed. Ms. Saunders was admitted to St. Vincent in serious condition.
At the hospital news conference yesterday, the elder Staczek's grief overcame him and he whispered into Michael's ear because he could not speak through his tears.
He wanted him to tell the audience how proud he was of his daughter's business achievements - she owns Alternative Management Resources, a job placement firm - and of his slain grandchildren: Lauren, who loved horse-riding competitions, and Jacob, who loved fire engines and tractors.
The family members, at times fighting back tears and at others letting them flow, spoke about the dead children as well as their sister, who they said is a strong woman whose world revolved around her children. Ms. Saunders did not attend the news conference.
The three Staczeks stressed that they had no reason to think that the children had been unsafe, but that Saunders knew a separation from his wife was in the works.
"I don't understand the depth of their relationship or if there was anything wrong. That's something we will learn about in the future," Jerry said.
The violence began before 7 a.m. Saturday.
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Saunders stabbed his wife and called 911 for an ambulance. When Deputy Brock entered the home at 1871 County Rd. E near County Rd. 2, Saunders raced into a back room and came out shooting.
Deputy Brock was hit twice and left the house. Deputies and police officers converged on the scene and later found the father and two children dead.
Visitation for the children will be Friday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Sujkowski Funeral home, Rossford. Funeral services will be Saturday at All Saints Church, Rossford.
The family suggests tributes to Women and Family Services Inc., 125 North Fulton St., Wauseon.
Staff writers Jennifer Feehan and Mark Reiter contributed to this report.
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