A part-time farmer told a 911 dispatcher that he killed his wife and three young children and was "getting ready to kill myself" inside their farmhouse on land tended by his family for at least four generations.
His grandmother, who lives just steps away, watched through her blinds as deputies swarmed around the house. She desperately tried to reach 31-year-old Alan Atwater by phone just after midnight on Saturday after hearing on a police scanner that her grandson had shot everyone inside.
She then went to the home with the sheriff in hopes they were alive.
"They were all gone," said Joan Atwater.
Deputies in northern Ohio said the bodies of Atwater and the rest of the family were found together with gunshot wounds in an upstairs bedroom. The youngest, 1-year-old Brady, was in a bed. The other children, Ashley, 4, and Isaac, 2, were found on the floor near their mother, Dawn, 30.
The only hint of trouble came recently when Atwater confided in Joan Atwater's husband that he and his wife of five years were having marital problems.
It was nothing, though, that caused any alarm, Joan Atwater said.
"Who doesn't have marital problems," she said, clutching photos of her smiling great-grandchildren. "We'll never know what really brought this on."
Atwater had no criminal record, and the Ottawa County Sheriff's office wasn't aware of any disputes between Atwater and his wife, a stay-at-home mother.
Relatives said that Atwater could have turned to plenty of family members for help nearby. At least four live within sight of their farmhouse.
A sign on an old wooden barn behind the house bears the family name. Around the corner, another red barn reads "D. Atwater 1904."
Atwater helped his grandmother's husband often around the farm and would come over to their house to help fix her computer. They had just been together the night before, she said.
She described him as a smiling, "happy-go-lucky kid" who kept any troubles to himself.
The 911 call came in just after midnight, the sheriff's office said.
"There has been a terrible accident at my house. My wife and three children are dead," Alan Atwater said in a calm, steady voice in the 911 call, according to the sheriff's office. He told the dispatcher he had shot them.
Deputies arrived within minutes at the farmhouse in Oak Harbor, about 25 miles southeast of Toledo. They didn't enter the home until two hours later, after they'd tried to contact the people inside by phone and through a loudspeaker.
The farmhouse, with a wooden swing set in the yard and two small utility barns, sits next to a field and in the shadows of the Davis-Besse nuclear plant, where Alan Atwater worked in the maintenance department.
Authorities said there was no indication anyone else was involved or that the killings were planned, and they were not sure Saturday whether Atwater left any type of note.