5 found dead in West Toledo; police suspect murder-suicide

3 children, 2 adults in car in garage; authorities cite custody battle

Authorities respond to a report of carbon monoxide poisoning on Harvest Lane in Toledo.
Authorities respond to a report of carbon monoxide poisoning on Harvest Lane in Toledo.

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.

A tow truck carries a vehicle from the home on Harvest Lane where two adults and three children were found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning.
A tow truck carries a vehicle from the home on Harvest Lane where two adults and three children were found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning.

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:tdung­jen@the­blade.com, or 419-724-6054 or on Twit­ter @tdung­jen_blade.