If Phillip Parsons was having financial or other troubles, he didn't let on to his friend, Russ Whittaker, as they cut trees or talked about high school sports.
"Great people. Great people," Whittaker said Monday, shaking his head at the news that Parsons and his family had been found dead just a stone's throw across the road.
St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon said Monday the deaths are being investigated as three murders and a suicide. Parsons, 35, an out-of-work truck driver, was found dead on his bedroom floor with a single gunshot to his head. His wife, Gina Parsons, 34, was shot multiple times and found in the couple's bed. Parson's son, Sean, and his wife's son, Andrew Davis, were each shot once and found in their bedrooms.
The boys, both 14-year-old high school freshmen, were stepbrothers from the couple's previous marriages.
A relative concerned about the family called 911 about 8 p.m. Sunday, Donnellon said. Investigators believe the shootings took place late Saturday night or early the next morning in the rural community of Columbus Township, about 40 miles northeast of Detroit.
Whittaker said he and Phillip Parsons often shared tools and last spoke about two weeks ago.
"The two boys were outside playing baseball Saturday," Whittaker said. "They played sports, football in school. Phil always talked about how good they were."
Matthew Davis described his son, Andrew, as a "great kid" who persevered through his parents' divorce about four years ago and recently made his school's hockey team.
"Even through the divorce, he got straight A's and B's," said Davis, 36. "We split custody. I had him every weekend and a week for hunting. He was like my little best friend."
Phillip Parsons had been a friend, someone Davis knew three years before Parsons married his ex-wife.
"People can say what they want, but he was good with the kids. For him to do that was baffling," Davis said of the shootings.
Phillip Parsons had been without a job for a few years, but his wife ran a business from home, brokering freight for commercial trucks, Donnellon said.
A large-caliber handgun registered to Phillip Parsons was used in the shootings, and investigators were looking into his background, Donnellon said.
Neighbor Betty Papiernik, 63, was outside smoking a cigarette when she heard shots coming from the direction of the Parsons' home.
The sound didn't faze her. Many people in the area hunt, and the nearby woods and fields still have enough deer, pheasants and rabbits for sport. Regular firearm season for deer opened Sunday.
"Almost every night, you hear gunshots," Papiernik said. "Everybody has a gun."