Fewer than 8,000 people live in the small community of Pleasantville, and residents told CBS2 it’s hard to wrap their heads around the violence.
“Nothing ever happens here. The police don’t have anything to do. So when something like this happens, it’s devastating,” neighbor Brian Skarstad said.
“There’s no way to even process it,” said neighbor Louise Beach.
Pleasantville Police Chief Erik Grutzner says officers found the bodies of 46-year-old Tom Liu, 42-year-old Dorothy Liu, 7-year-old Tennyson Liu and 4-year-old Adeline Liu at the family’s home on Romer Avenue around 2 p.m. Thursday.
“At this point in the investigation, evidence strongly suggests that Mr. Liu used a knife to cause the death of his wife and children and then used that same knife to take his own life. While we do not have a motive, interviews indicate that Mr. Liu was under a considerable amount of stress. There are no reports of domestic violence prior to this incident at the home,” Pleasantville Police Chief Erik Grutzner said Friday evening.
Sources tell CBS2 that Tom Liu worked in finance and was complaining of work-related stress.
The Pleasantville school district asked officers to check on the family after the children didn’t show up for classes at Bedford Road School and their parents couldn’t be reached.
Grief counselors were on hand Friday to help family and friends cope with the sudden loss.
“As you can imagine, our hearts are broken at the news of this incredible tragedy. This is a very small community and it impacts all of us in this small village,” Superintendent Mary Fox-Alter said.
Neighbors struggled to understand what went wrong.
“We know them very well. They’re just – this is the nicest family,” said Skarstad.
“The loveliest family. They moved in, I guess, a year and a half ago. Just sweet, warm. She was so smiley… The father seemed lovely,” Beach said. “The kids were – they all knew our names, so they would call out from across the street. They were really sweet… Always just so beautifully taken care of.”
“It’s scary. You just don’t think it’s gonna happen in your neighborhood,” neighbor Chris Cronk said.
Cronk says he will discuss the tragedy with his children this weekend. He knows they’ll ask how a father could harm his own family.
“Really just look at your kid, say, ‘This would never happen in this family.’ That’s all I can do is just be honest with them,” Cronk said.
Neighbors say from the outside looking in, no one saw any signs anything was wrong.
Before moving to Pleasantville, the Liu family lived in a co-op building on 108th Road in the Forest Hills section of Queens. Residents there remember them well and are in shock.
“They were lovely people. At Halloween, we would have parties right here in our lobby and they brought their two beautiful children to the parties here,” former neighbor Sheila Doherty told CBS2’s Tony Aiello. “When they would come and go in the building, they were very polite, friendly, beautiful people.”
The Pleasantville school district will open Bedford Road Elementary this weekend and have counselors available.