Bill Ryerson for The Boston Globe
WINCHESTER — Police were searching for a 43-year-old man today who they wanted to question in the killings of his wife, their two children, and the children’s grandmother in the family’s suburban home.
The victims’ bodies were found this morning by a firefighter, who made the gruesome discovery after a distraught relative asked authorities to check in on the family, according to friends of the family.
What police found at the scene “was horrific, disturbing, and unspeakable,’’ said Middlesex District Attorney Gerald T. Leone Jr., during a brief press conference. “The acts do not appear to be random.’’
The man being sought was identified as Thomas Mortimer IV, a software salesman with no apparent criminal record.
Leone identified the victims as 64-year-old Ellen Ragner Stone, her 41-year-old daughter and Mortimer’s wife, Laura Stone Mortimer, and the couple’s two children, 2-year-old Charlotte Mortimer and 4-year-old Thomas “Finn’’ Mortimer V.
He did not describe any possible motive or how the victims were killed. Leone also did not say when Mortimer was last seen.
A friend of the family told the Globe that the bodies were found after Stone’s other daughter, Debra, went to the house this morning. She was worried because she had not been able to get in touch with her mother, said Debra Stone’s neighbor and friend, Allene Murphy.
Murphy’s husband, Danny, went with Stone to the house and found it locked, Murphy said.
Worried they would set off the alarm system if they broke in, the pair called the Fire Department, Murphy said.
Once inside, Stone and Murphy saw blood on a light switch and pooled on the floor, according to Allene Murphy. The firefighter looked through the rest of the house and then rushed Stone and Murphy out.
Mortimer’s father, Thomas Mortimer III, 69, said he last saw his son on Sunday, when he came to Winchester to baby-sit for his grandchildren.
Finn, a curious, smart boy interested in the environment, built a fort in the backyard while Charlotte searched for wood to help her brother, Mortimer recalled.
“Things seemed to be pretty fine,’’ he said in a telephone interview from his Connecticut home. “It’s just hard to understand what could have happened.’’
At about 3 p.m. today, Mortimer said he had not heard from police or his son and did not know what had happened. Reached about two hours later, Mortimer said he could not speak because he was being interviewed by investigators.
The Stone Mortimer family appeared to have a comfortable life in Winchester.
They belonged to the Winchester Swim and Tennis Club, and their children were enrolled two mornings a week at the LEAP School in Lexington, a private preschool.
Thomas Mortimer had been out of work for a year, his father said. But he had just started working as a senior sales account executive again two weeks ago.
His boss, Anil Shah, president of M&R Consultants Corp., a Burlington technology consulting firm, said he was impressed with his new employee, whom he described as a hard-working, down-to-earth employee who was eager to land new customers.
“Until the last moment, he was cranking up the calls to prospective clients,’’ Shah said. “An extremely nice guy, very professional, very dedicated to his work.’’ Just a few days ago, Shah said, Mortimer told him how much he enjoyed the job and expressed confidence that he would do well.
On Tuesday, Mortimer called his supervisor to say he was sick and was not coming in, Shah said. Mortimer did not show up for work today, either.
Then, late this afternoon, Shah said he got a phone call from a State Police detective asking for Mortimer.
“They were worried about his safety,’’ Shah said. “They wanted to find out if he called today.’’
Mortimer’s father said the couple were getting along except for some squabbles about how to raise the children.
This morning at about 11:30, several cruisers and two ambulances showed up to Windsong Lane, neighbors said.
“I’m very, very, very upset,’’ said Linda MacArthur, a neighbor who had known Ellen Stone for more than 30 years. “Something obviously went wrong. It had to be not that long ago that I saw them walking up and down the street, the daughter and husband and the kids.’’
Ellen Stone, the grandmother — who was estranged from her husband, according to a neighbor — was usually seen walking her dog, a black and white Terrier, around the neighborhood. Her son-in-law was usually outside with his children, playing in the front yard.
“Very, very ordinary,’’ MacArthur said about the family. “Nothing unusual or weird going on there.’’
Laura Stone Mortimer was a managing economist at an independent research firm owned by CB Richard Ellis, a Boston commercial real estate services company.
She was often quoted in business journals talking about commercial real estate. Company officials declined to comment.
She and Mortimer had been married for seven years. They married in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard about a year after they met, according to friends and family.
The family moved in with Ellen Stone about two years ago, said the elder Mortimer. Laura wanted to wait to buy a house until the market improved, he said.
Ellen Stone had lived at the house for about 30 years.
“I am in shock,’’ said Alicia Greco, a childhood friend of the family, who went to the couple’s wedding. “They were wonderful people. Nobody deserves this. This is horrific.’’
Since Jan. 1, 11 people have been killed in domestic violence homicides statewide, said Toni Troop, director of communications of Jane Doe Inc., a statewide coalition against sexual assault and domestic violence. An additional seven perpetrators committed suicide, Troop said.
In February, 17-year-old Olivia Marchand of Westford was fatally shot by her father, who turned the gun on his wife, injuring her. He then killed himself. Marchand’s mother survived.
Troop said there are warning signs that come before such killings, but friends and family members have to know how to recognize them.
“There are red flags that have been researched and documented as indicators that a domestic violence situation has the likelihood of becoming lethal,’’ Troop said. “We need to do better. We all have to have our antennae up to make sure that these situations are not minimized, dismissed, or overlooked.’’
Jonathan Saltzman of the Globe Staff and Globe correspondents Stefanie Geisler and Shana Wickett contributed to this report.
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