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Before apparently killing her son and then herself, Kim Hassler left “many notes” that said she intended to commit the murder-suicide, officials said.
Ms. Hassler, 48, and Andrew Hassler, 11, were found hanged in a Point Place garage late Monday night, Toledo police said.
Both were pronounced dead at the scene, at 11:10 p.m., by a Toledo fire lieutenant.
The boy’s death is being treated as a homicide and Ms. Hassler’s is being investigated as a suicide, said Dr. Diane Scala-Barnett, Lucas County deputy coroner.
Both the mother and son had “sludge” in their stomachs — pills in the digestive process.
“It looks like he was for sure sedated,” Dr. Scala-Barnett said, adding that Ms. Hassler also took pills, but not as many.
A toxicology report, which will take weeks to process, will give investigators a clearer picture of what was taken and how much.
Andrew did not have any defense wounds, and there was no indication of prior abuse, Dr. Scala-Barnett said. Toledo police had not been called to that home in the past, Sgt. Tim Noble said.
Lucas County Children Services also did not have any history with Ms. Hassler or Andrew, said Dean Sparks, the agency’s executive director.
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The bodies were found about 11 p.m. at 3127 128th St. by Phil Berger, who was described by police as Ms. Hassler’s boyfriend.
A knock at Mr. Berger’s door went unanswered Tuesday.
Police said Ms. Hassler and Mr. Berger began dating in October; neighbors said the woman and her son moved into the Point Place home within the last few months.
Marty Fontaine, who lives across the street from Mr. Berger, said he frequently saw Ms. Hassler take Andrew to school and then pick him up in the afternoons.
“She was nice enough,” said Mr. Fontaine, 49. “She mostly kept to herself in the house.”
Monday, Ms. Hassler did not take Andrew to Edgewater Elementary School, where he has been attending fifth grade since January.
It appears the mother and son moved to Toledo from somewhere in Michigan.
Officials said Mr. Berger went to work at a car dealership Monday, and went out after. When he returned home, Ms. Hassler’s car was gone — later found by police parked at a nearby business.
Police said Mr. Berger looked for a note from Ms. Hassler, assuming she’d gone somewhere, and for his cockatoo, which was missing from inside the house.
Authorities said Mr. Berger was in his kitchen and saw bird feathers on the floor, prompting him to look in his oven, where he found the dead bird.
It’s not clear how the pet died, but officials believe Ms. Hassler put the bird there; the oven was not on. A pet dog was apparently unharmed.
After finding the bird, Mr. Berger went to the garage, turned on a light, and found Ms. Hassler and Andrew.
At the scene, officials found a receipt, with Monday’s date, for the rope used in the hangings. Authorities also recovered several notes at the scene but did not release details.
Neighbors who gathered outside Gloria Ryan’s home Tuesday morning were stunned to hear about what happened.
Ms. Ryan, who lives next door to Mr. Berger, said she never heard any police activity nor saw sirens, and she only learned of the deaths while watching the news.
“I can’t believe all this,” said Ms. Ryan, who said she didn’t even know there was a young boy living next door.
Mr. Fontaine said he occasionally saw Andrew outside playing with Mr. Berger’s “pit-bull” type dog. Another neighbor recently saw the boy and his mother playing catch with a football in a nearby grassy lot.
The deaths were troubling, even to veteran investigators.
“There is no greater bond than between a mother and her child,” Sergeant Noble said. “How could a mother do that? I just don’t have an answer to that. It makes you want to cry.”
Grief counselors were available at Edgewater on Tuesday, and the school sent a note home with students to let parents know what happened.
Mr. Sparks said, however difficult, parents should talk to their children about the deaths.
“I think that honesty is important,” Mr. Sparks said. “You don’t have to talk about the details, other than how sad that you feel that this occurred, but also reassure kids that they’re safe. That’s the main thing that kids want to know in this world, is that they’re safe.”
It’s also normal for children to feel scared, have nightmares, a change in appetite, or feel extra clingy, Mr. Sparks said. Very few children will need professional mental health help, but they should be encouraged to talk to teachers, pastors, and other adults they trust.
“Most kids will be sad in the short term when they figure out that their friend is not at school and that something happened to them,” Mr. Sparks said. “Kids are pretty resilient if they're given support and reassurance from the adults around them.”
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.