CROSS RIVER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police are still piecing together the sequence of events that ended with a Westchester County family dead on Tuesday.
Police found attorney Sam Friedlander, 50, his wife Amy, 46, and their two children, 10-year-old Molly and 8-year-old Gregory, all dead inside their home on 2 Lambert Ridge Road.
Authorities said the husband and father of two, who was in the middle of divorce proceedings, killed his wife, his children and himself. The couple was set to be in court Thursday due to their divorce petition.
WCBS 880’s Sean Adams: Authorities Say The Wife Was Beaten To Death, The Children Shot
The family rabbi, Carla Freedman, said while Friedlander seemed stressed, no one thought he would kill his wife and children and then kill himself.
“We knew that they were experiencing financial difficulties, and we knew that they were going through a difficult divorce,” Freedman, of the Jewish Family Congregation, told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.
“People who knew him have stated they had seen a change in his behavior, although they had no indication whatsoever that his behavior would have led to what has transpired here,” Major Michael Kopy, of the New York State Police, said.
Police believe Friedlander bludgeoned his wife to death with a leg of a piece of furniture. There were signs of a struggle in the master bedroom where Amy was killed. Friedlander also blasted his two children in the torso with a 12 gauge shotgun before killing himself, according to Kopy. The children were shot in bed and then placed under the covers, Kopy said.
The investigation remains open. Police know the who, what and where, but are searching for the why.
“Were hoping through all the countless interviews we’re doing, we’ll get answers, but the truth of the matter is those people who can answer the best are not here any more,” State Police investigator Joseph Becerra told CBS 2′ Lou Young.
Becerra was one of the first police officer to enter the home on Tuesday. He said that “children basically looked like they were sleeping in their beds.”
“It’s almost surreal to see they were obviously deceased,” he said.
A neighbor of the Friedlanders, who asked CBS 2 not to show his face, worked with Sam, helping the attorney with video and audio clips for some of his legal cases.
“You would see Amy out in the driveway playing with the kids and the Fisher Price toys. Sam would be in the yard doing whatever he had to do and this is a shock — to bludgeon your wife and then turn a shotgun on your children makes no sense,” the neighbor told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.
That neighbors’ wife is owner of a Mt. Kisco restaurant, where Sam was seen in a security video entering the business on Monday and briefly chatting with her.
“My wife tells me he was jovial, he was upbeat and there was no indication that she gave that would indicate anything was askew,” the neighbor said.
The murder-suicide of the successful family has left officials there somewhat stunned.
“To the best of my knowledge the last time we had a homicide we had a double homicide in the hamlet of Vista in March of 1977,” Lewisboro Police Chief Frank Secret said. “Prior to that, I’ve never heard of anything even in the history regarding something like this happening in our town.”
“It’s somewhat surreal when you see it happen in your own community. It almost looks like a movie set,” Lewisboro Supervisor Charles Duffy said.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports from Hawthorne
Police said the home was so bloody, officers weren’t immediately certain how each victim died or even which of the adults carried out the killings.
“This is devastating. In our community like this, this is nothing something we’re used to at all,” said Secret.
“When it’s so close to home, it’s so scary. You know, what could have been so horrible to do this, especially to your own children,” Martha Melkonian said.
LISTEN: 1010 WINS’ John Montone reports
Cops were called to the home by Amy Friedlander’s business partner who was worried about Amy.
“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,” said Kopy. “She felt that was unusual and she asked troopers to go out to the residence.”
The clue to a motive for the tragedy may be found in the so-called “difficult divorce” that was headed to court this week. So far, nothing police have uncovered suggests anything that could have led to this level of violence.
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