A central Massachusetts community continues to mourn while authorities search for answers after four members of a family were found murdered in their home last week.
The bodies of 38-year-old Sara Bermudez and her three young children, Madison Bermudez, 8, James Bermudez, 6, and Michael Bermudez, 2, were found inside the house at 10 Old Warren Road in West Brookfield on Thursday afternoon, according to the Worcester District Attorney’s office.
There have been no arrests in the case, and police have so far not released any information about a suspect or suspects. Authorities have asked for the public’s help with the investigation.
Here’s what we know so far about the slayings that have devastated neighbors and shocked the community.
The bodies of Bermudez and her children were discovered by her father-in-law, The Boston Globe reports.
Moses Bermudez, who was working in California, had been trying to reach his wife, Sara Bermudez, by phone but she wasn’t picking up. He called his father, according to the Globe, and asked him to go check the family’s home on Old Warren Road. The father found the bodies in an upstairs bedroom and called his wife in a panic, the newspaper reports, saying, “I can see it, I can see it! They’re not fine!”
Police were called to the home around 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, according to the DA’s office.
The Globe reports the bodies showed signs of burns and several fires had been set in the home, but they had burned out on their own.
“Our investigators want the public to be on the lookout for a discarded yellow fuel can,” District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. said Saturday. “Police believe that this fuel container is missing from the home. Anyone with any information with regards to a discarded yellow plastic fuel can is asked to call the state police dispatch center.”
The DA’s office said yellow containers are typically used to store diesel fuel.
State police helicopters were slated to look for the missing can from above on Tuesday, according to West Brookfield police.
Authorities are also asking anyone in the West Brookfield area with active home or business surveillance cameras, or a dashboard-mounted camera, to contact the State Police Dispatch Center.
Early said the investigation was “relatively young” and said authorities believe the crime occurred sometime Wednesday or Thursday.
“We are asking the public to remain vigilant and careful,” he said. “This has been declared four homicides. Anything you see out of the ordinary, please call us.”
Moses Bermudez works as an offshoreman in California and works frequently out of state, according to the Globe.
His sister, Rachaul Bermudez, told the newspaper that her brother flew home as soon as he got the news and the family is shocked and doesn’t know what happened.
“My brother was really enjoying being a father,” she told the Globe. “He was like a mentor to kids. When he had his own — I could see it. These little scenes of haircuts. The fishing. He had a plan. It’s all gone now.”
Moses Bermudez grew up in nearby Warren, but moved to California after he graduated high school, where he met his wife Sara, according to the Globe. The couple decided to move back to Massachusetts to raise their family and opened a bouncy house business, MJM Jumpers, that rented equipment for parties.
They bought the West Brookfield home about four years ago, according to the newspaper.
Rachaul Bermudez said business had been good and that the couple had been slowly adding more equipment, the Globe reports.
Two of the children were students at West Brookfield Elementary School, Brett Kustigan, Superintendent of the Quaboag Regional School District said in a statement.
Neighbors told the Globe they often saw the children playing in front of the house. One man told the newspaper that 8-year-old Madison always petted his dog when he walked by.
“She’s just a sweetie. It’s just terrible,” the man, who asked not to be identified, told the newspaper. “It’s not how things are supposed to go.”
The wife of Moses Bermudez’s father told the Globe that the family is “looking for answers.”
“They were wonderful little children and they didn’t deserve what happened,” she said.
She told the newspaper that her husband had visited his grandchildren last week.
“It’s in the police’s hands right now,” she said, according to the Globe.
A community vigil was held on Sunday at the The First Congregational Church of West Brookfield as the town grappled with the slayings.
“The whole community is grieving and experiencing the sense of not being safe,” Rev. Stacey Kullgren told the Boston Herald. “We have people wondering if they have to fear for their children. We have children asking if they’re safe.”
Dave Whittemore, a 76-year-old resident of West Brookfield for 35 years, told MassLive when he heard about the murders, he took out a gun he has barely used over the years.
“I slept with a gun under my pillow the other night,” Whittemore told the publication Sunday.
There was an increased police presence at district schools Friday, Kustigian said in a statement, and grief counseling is being made available to students and staff.
“Quaboag is a small, tight-knit community where everyone knows each other and this is our strength,” the superintendent said at the end of the week. “Today was all about supporting students, coming together [as] a community, grieving, displaying emotion and wondering how could something like this happen. Unfortunately, there are no answers to many of our questions, but I am encouraged by the strength and resiliency of our students, staff and the entire school community.”
It is the second tragedy to rock the town in less than six months. In November, three teens were killed in a single-car crash.
Kustigan said New England Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder visited the West Brookfield Elementary School on Friday, “lifting spirits at a dark time.”
Extra counselors would remain at the elementary school this week, he said, adding that the goal is “to return to as normal a routine as possible this week.”
The superintendent said a 6 p.m. event would be hosted for parents and families at the elementary school on Wednesday, where experts will hold a discussion about dealing with tragedy and loss.
“We don’t want people to be overly upset, but we do want them to be careful,” West Brookfield Police Chief C. Thomas O’Donnell said, according to the Globe.
The chief told the Herald that with the tragedy that occurred, it is “natural” for the community to have concerns.
“It’s important to remind the kids — and adults — that they are safe and cared for,” he said. “And definitely talk with your kids about their feelings with regards to this. In the long run it will really help them. … And of course, the state police detectives and our officers are actively working this case.”