John Eckard, 46, Robin Eckard, 45, and Nicholas Michael Gabriel Eckard, 9, were found dead by police around 8:25 a.m. Thursday in their 13160 Havens Corner Road SW home in Pataskala. (Michael Lehmkuhle, The Advocate)
PATASKALA -- The bodies of a couple and their 9-year-old son were discovered early Thursday inside their ranch-style home in what police are calling a possible double murder-suicide.
Prompted by a 911 call, police found John Eckard, 46, Robin Eckard, 45, and Nicholas Michael Gabriel Eckard, 9, on Thursday morning in their 13160 Havens Corner Road SW home, Pataskala Police Chief Chris Forshey said.
"It would appear they died of (single gunshot wounds) to the head," Forshey said.
Police found two of the victims in their respective bedrooms and the suspected shooter in the living room, but Forshey would not confirm the identity of the suspected shooter pending planned autopsies today.
Forshey placed the estimated time of death for all three victims at between 3 and 8:25 a.m. Police forced their way into the home not long after the 911 call came in at 8:34 a.m.
"Our preliminary indications are that two of them were probably shot while they slept," Forshey said.
He added the wounds appeared to come from a shotgun, and there were no signs of a struggle inside the home.
"It was a violent crime scene," Forshey said. "One of the more violent I've seen."
The Licking County 911 Center received a call Thursday morning from a man worried about a letter he had just received.
The center transferred the call to the Licking County Sheriff's Office, and the male caller can be heard in a recording of the call telling a dispatcher that John Eckard left him three hand-typed letters in his office, which is in the same building as John Eckard's business. He also left letters for his ex-wife, the caller said.
"It says 'please don't open this 'till 11,'" said the male caller, describing the letter left for him. "Then it says we are no longer in this world ..."
The caller tells the dispatcher John Eckard has "serious medical problems." Later in the call, he describes the problems as Parkinson's disease.
A concerned-sounding woman can be heard in the background as the man hurriedly explains the situation to the dispatcher.
Police said Thursday they think John Eckard owned Alpha Auto Group, 13375 National Road.
Police also said they recovered at least four letters they suspect John Eckard left at his business and at his home. He also sent text messages to a business partner and family and friends around 3:15 a.m., police said. The text messages contained similar subject matter as the letters, Forshey said.
The family lived in a two-story, ranch-style home that stood abut 200 yards off Havens Corner Road. A long driveway, immaculate lawns and several trees and a gentle slope stood between the home and the road, making it difficult to see the entire home from the road.
On Thursday, yellow police caution tape surrounded the front and side lawns. A trampoline and wooden play-set occupied a section of the side yard. A barn and horse corral stood behind the home, and several Halloween decorations, including bales of hay, pumpkins and decorative scarecrows, remained on the front lawn.
The family had not been on the police department's radar before Thursday, Forshey said.
"This is not a place we routinely come to," Forshey said. "I do think they had a barn fire last summer, though."
Police think Nicholas Eckard attended one of two Licking Heights elementary schools on Summit Road. Licking Heights Superintendent Thomas Tucker could not be reached Thursday to confirm that.
Thursday marked the second time in eight months the city has witnessed a possible murder-suicide.
In February, Jeffrey P. McKnight, 53, set fire to his Amber Road home, then went to the Summit Road home of his father, Charles E. McKnight, 94, and stabbed him to death before turning a gun on himself.
The Amber Road home was in foreclosure at the time of the incident.
Police on Thursday still were exploring motives regarding the shootings on Havens Corner Road.
"I believe there were a number of issues that may have contributed to this," said Forshey, adding he could not elaborate.
Chad Klimack can be reached at (740) 927-3738 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Note: Cross posted from [wp angelfury] Whos Killing Families?.