A mother and her three children whose bodies were found in a Minnesota lake over the weekend died in a murder-suicide, sheriff’s investigators said Thursday—and their deaths apparently followed the suicide of the children’s father.
Police and fire personnel in the St. Paul suburb of Maplewood were dispatched last Friday after a woman, identified as 23-year-old Molly Cheng, reported that her husband had shot himself. The medical examiner later identified the man as Yee Lee, 27, and determined he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to a news release from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.
Police arranged for social workers to assist Cheng and her children, but that afternoon a relative called 911 saying Cheng was going to kill her children and herself, the news release said. Maplewood Police were able to track Cheng’s cell phone to the area of Vadnais-Sucker Lake Park in Vadnais Heights, just north of St. Paul.
Deputies found Cheng’s car in a parking lot, and several pairs of children’s shoes and the car keys on the shore of the lake. First responders immediately started a search in the water and on land, the news release said.
One of the three children, a 4-year-old, was found in the lake that evening, and his cause of death was determined to be drowning and smothering, according to the medical examiner. Shortly after midnight, search teams found a 5-year-old in the lake, and the news release said the cause of death was drowning.
When investigators resumed the search Saturday, they found the mother’s body, and her cause of death was determined to be suicide by drowning. Several hours later, they found the body of the third child, a 3-year-old; the medical examiner determined the child died by drowning and smothering, the news release said.
The sheriff’s office said the children’s deaths were classified as homicides.
“Our hearts go out to the family, friends, and community impacted by this terrible tragedy,” Ramsey County Undersheriff Mike Martin said in the news release. “The Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate the circumstances of this incident to provide clarity and closure to the surviving family members.”
The sheriff’s water patrol commander, Eric Bradt, previously said boats are not allowed on the lake, which is about 5 to 10 feet deep.