A man in the middle of a divorce fatally shot his two children in their beds, bludgeoned his wife to death with the leg from a piece of furniture, then killed himself in the basement of their suburban home, police said Wednesday.
The bodies of Amy and Sam Friedlander and their children, 8-year-old Gregory and 10-year-old Molly, were discovered Tuesday afternoon, hours after their deaths, in affluent Cross River, north of New York City. All were in nightclothes, police said.
The couple had a divorce proceeding scheduled for Thursday, but were still living under the same roof, in separate bedrooms, said state police Maj. Michael Kopy. The husband was 50, the wife 46.
The children were found dead in their beds, shot in the torso and then covered with bedspreads, Kopy said. He said it wasn't yet known if they were asleep when they were shot.
Their mother lay dead on the floor of the master bedroom, amid the bloody evidence of a struggle, Kopy said. The furniture leg lay nearby and was likely the murder weapon, he said.
The father's body was in the unfinished basement, along with the shotgun he used. Kopy said no suicide note had been found as of Wednesday afternoon.
Counselors were summoned for the officers who encountered the carnage and the investigators who processed the crime scenes scattered through the house.
Police had been alerted by the wife's worried business partner.
"She was aware that Mr. and Mrs. Friedlander had been involved in divorce proceedings and that she had not heard from Mrs. Friedlander during the day," Kopy said. "She felt that was unusual and she asked troopers to go out to the residence."
The partner, Deborah Bernstein, posted a notice on the website of the tutoring service she and Amy Friedlander ran.
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Amy Friedlander and her children Molly and Gregory," it said. "Amy was not only a business partner but a personal friend and loving mother. She will be truly missed by us and the community at large."
Kopy said a domestic incident was reported at the house in 2006, with no arrest. He said it was "an argument over the children, certainly not indicative of what transpired here Monday night into Tuesday morning."
He said Sam Friedlander had no criminal record.
The father worked as an attorney in the Bedford-Katonah area, handling "minor criminal matters," Kopy said.
"There was some indication that Mr. Friedlander had been acting somewhat irrationally. His behavior over the past weeks and months had been inconsistent with his previous behavior," Kopy said. "People noticed some changes."
But he added: "No one has said anything that would lead us to believe, or would have led them to believe, that this would have occurred."
On Wednesday, police parked their vehicles in front of the Friedlanders' four-bedroom, blue-gray, Colonial-style house and challenged anyone who tried to linger; crime-scene tape was stretched across the driveway.
The couple's May 2000 wedding announcement in The New York Times said Amy Friedlander was a vice president for Chase Manhattan Bank and her husband a lawyer for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
At the time, their parents lived in Penn Valley, Pa., and Longmeadow, Mass.
The Friedlanders' rabbi, Carla Freedman of the Jewish Family Congregation in South Salem, said the couple had been "experiencing a variety of different stresses."
"We knew about the divorce, and the house was for sale, and there were financial concerns," she said. "But nothing said, `Red flag.'"
Kopy would not say whether the divorce or financial problems were considered motives for the killings.
He said police were trying to find out where and when Friedlander obtained the shotgun and shells. Registering the shotgun was not required, he said.
The Friedlanders' neighborhood, called Michelle Estates, was developed by financier Carl Icahn in the 1990s. Most of the houses are grander and on larger lots than the Friedlanders', which was listed for $799,900 and had a small "For Sale" sign on the curb.
Some neighbors' houses were decorated for Halloween, with pumpkins on their porches and fake spider webs across the shrubs. None of the nearest neighbors answered knocks at their doors; one had a sign asking, "Please respect privacy."
Associated Press writer Kiley Armstrong and researcher Julie Reed Bell in New York City contributed to this report.
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