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Four in Winchester family slain

Man sought for questions in deaths of wife, 2 children, and her mother

The bodies were found at the family’s home in late morning yesterday. Officials did not say how the victims died. The bodies were found at the family’s home in late morning yesterday. Officials did not say how the victims died. (Bill Ryerson/For The Boston Globe)
By Maria Cramer, Travis Andersen, and Stephanie Ebbert
Globe Staff / June 17, 2010

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WINCHESTER — Police were searching yesterday for a 43-year-old man to question him in the killings of his wife, their two children, and the children’s grandmother in the family’s suburban Colonial home.

The victims’ bodies were found late yesterday morning by a firefighter, who made the gruesome discovery after a distraught relative asked authorities to check on the family, according to friends of the family.

What police found “was horrific, disturbing, and unspeakable,’’ said Middlesex District Attorney Gerard 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. Police have not called him a suspect in the killings.

Leone identified the victims as 64-year-old Ragna Ellen Stone, her 41-year-old daughter, Laura Stone Mortimer, and the couple’s children, Charlotte, 2, and Thomas, 4, known as Finn.

Leone did not describe any possible motive or how the victims were killed. He also did not say when Mortimer was last seen.

A friend of the family said the bodies were found after Stone’s other daughter, Debra, went to the house yesterday morning. She had not been able to get in touch with her mother, who lived at the Winchester home on Windsong Lane, said Debra Stone’s neighbor, Allene Murphy.

Murphy’s husband, Danny, went to the house with Debra Stone 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, Danny Murphy saw blood on a light switch and pooled on the floor, according to his wife. The firefighter looked through the rest of the house and then rushed Murphy out.

Mortimer’s father, Thomas Mortimer III, 69, said he came to Winchester to baby-sit for his grandchildren on Sunday, and that was the last time he saw his son.

He recalled that Finn, a curious, smart boy interested in the environment, built a fort in the backyard while Charlotte searched for wood to help her brother.

“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. yesterday, the elder 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 the 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 a job as a senior sales account executive 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 person 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 yesterday, either. Then, late yesterday 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.’’

Police believe Mortimer was driving a gray Toyota Highlander, according to a law enforcement official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the case.

Mortimer’s father said the couple got along except for some squabbles about how to raise the children.

“Something obviously went wrong,’’ said Linda MacArthur, a neighbor who had known Ellen Stone for more than 30 years. “. . . 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 around the neighborhood. Her son-in-law was often 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 January, Olivia Marchand, 17, 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. Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com; Travis Andersen at tandersen@globe.com; and Stephanie Ebbert at ebbert@globe.com.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the grandmother's name as Ellen Ragner Stone. Her name has been corrected to Ragna Ellen Stone.

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