Authorities respond to a report of carbon monoxide poisoning on Harvest Lane in Toledo.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
A Toledo woman and her son allegedly conspired to kill themselves and three young children — her grandchildren and his nieces and nephew — in order to prevent the children's parents from regaining custody, police theorized on Monday.
Police found the five family members — Sandy Ford, 56; Andy Ford, 32; Paige Hayes, 10; Logan Hayes, 7; and Madalyn Hayes, 5 — dead inside of a car parked inside the family's attached garage at 5142 Harvest Lane on Monday afternoon.
Police were called by Randy Ford, 60, Mrs. Ford's husband, at 3:17 p.m. requesting a check on their welfare; police and fire arrived at at 3:26 p.m.
Toledo police Sgt. Joe Heffernan said the elder Mr. Ford returned home from work Monday afternoon and found notes from his wife, son, and grandchildren.
He became “concerned” and tried to find his family, and then realized the garage door was locked and “barricaded” from the inside.
Toledo fire crews used a sledgehammer to force entry into the garage where they found the five dead, along with two dogs and a cat. The breeds of the animals were not available late Monday.
Police said the five people and the animals were in a blue Honda Civic; hoses from the exhaust of a truck parked inside of the garage were run into the back passenger window of the Civic.
According to police, Mrs. Ford was the primary caregiver for the three children; Andy Ford also lived at the home, neighbors said. The children’s parents are Christopher Hayes, 38, and Mandy Hayes, 35, of Sylvania.
Sergeant Heffernan said the parents were in the process of getting full custody and police believe that was the motive for the alleged murders and suicides. He said carbon monoxide poisoning was suspected as the cause of the deaths.
Dean Sparks, executive director of Lucas County Children Services, said Monday night that he did not immediately have much information about the case, but did know that the children were placed in the Fords’ custody in 2009.
He did not have any indication that there were ever court proceedings involved. Not speaking specifically about this case, Mr. Sparks said that, sometimes, a parent can give permission for children to live with another relative.
“It's a horrible tragedy,” Mr. Sparks said. He added that Children Services staff members were at the scene Monday — as is protocol when a suspected homicide involves a child — but he had not heard from them to learn more about what happened.
Sergeant Heffernan said he was also not positive about why the children were in the custody of the Fords, but believed there was a “domestic” issue.
Toledo police were called to the Harvest Lane home twice last week, Sergeant Heffernan said. Police were there on Tuesday for a domestic violence report between Mrs. Ford and her daughter Mandy Hayes. Police were there again Thursday for a custody exchange, Sergeant Heffernan said.
Sergeant Heffernan said that someone from Sylvania schools might have called Mrs. Hayes or her husband, Chris Hayes, on Monday to report that her children were not at school.
Mr. and Mrs. Hayes on Monday night turned away a Blade reporter who went to their Sylvania home to interview them.
Sylvania Schools Superintendent Brad Rieger said the children were enrolled in Whiteford Elementary. Paige was a fifth grader, Logan was in second grade, and Madalyn was in kindergarten. Their sister, Blake, 9, attends Hillview Elementary.
“This is a tragedy,” he said.
Mr. Rieger said counselors and psychologists will be available at the school to talk to students, parents, teachers, and staff, and will be available for as long as they are needed.
“The loss of life, especially of a young person, is such a tragedy that words cannot even express it. Our hearts go out to the family and also the Whiteford school community as we wrestle with this tragic loss,” he said.
Neighbors were shocked to learn about the deaths.
Just last week the three children were outside with Andy Ford, helping him rake leaves, said neighbor Doug Hall, who lives across the street.
“Andy did the leaves … and the three kids were always out there with him, dragging the tarp, running the little sucker thing or whatever,” Mr. Hall said, standing in his doorway. “ … I mean, it seemed like they did everything with him. When he was outside, they were outside doing stuff with him, it didn't matter what the weather was.”
Contact Taylor Dungjen at:firstname.lastname@example.org, or 419-724-6054 or on Twitter @tdungjen_blade.