A woman going through a divorce was found dead in her Alabama home alongside her two children in what police described as a “horrific” murder-suicide.
Nancy Johnson, 37, and her children, Mia, 5, and Jacob, 2, were found dead Thursday in their home in Semmes, Alabama. Mobile County Sheriff Paul Burch said at a news conference Friday that Johnson drowned his children before hanging himself.
“This is definitely not a typical homicide scene,” Semmes Police Chief Todd Freind told local news outlet FOX10. “It’s more brutal than usual, than what we usually see.”
An investigation into the deaths began on Thursday. Burch said Johnson’s ex-husband, who lived in an RV behind the house, called police to report he found family members dead.
Investigators ruled out the suspects’ husband, the sheriff said.
“He was cooperative and we were able to corroborate the timeline of where he said he was and where he was coming from, and he was truthful in those statements,” Burch told reporters , adding that he hoped “the social media comments” suggesting the man was the culprit would stop.
Burch said the husband found her children’s bodies inside the home on the couch covered with a blanket. According to the sheriff, both children had died from drowning, although the older child also had lacerations around her neck and Johnson had hanged herself. Burch told reporters that Johnson had a history of psychiatric problems.
Uncertainty initially surrounded the case when investigators were unable to determine whether Johnson and her children died in a murder-suicide or a triple homicide.
According to Burch, Johnson had injuries to her wrist and neck that investigators believe she inflicted around the same time she drowned her children. He also said she remarked to her neighbors just before her death that if she died they should suspect her husband.
The day before the murders, Burch told reporters, Johnson left neighbors a purple suitcase containing a note hinting at something happening to him, a small amount of money, some clothes and his phone.
Burch told reporters that Semmes officers have responded to domestic incidents at the home before.
Last week, Johnson’s husband was arrested for domestic violence after allegedly breaking into the home and attacking Johnson in order to take the children, according to court documents cited by FOX10.
Another court document cited by the media indicates that the husband had requested in June that a Department of Human Resources employee had expressed concerns about Johnson’s mental health affecting the safety of children.
“The DHR agent informed the defendant (the father) that he did not believe it was safe for the minor children to remain in the care and custody of the plaintiff (the mother),” the document states, reported FOX10.
A few weeks after the case was filed in June, the couple agreed to see a counselor, according to court documents.
But last month, Johnson reportedly obtained a protection from abuse order against her husband, and he filed for divorce the next day. The parents were granted joint custody of their children on Tuesday and DHR was accused of providing a “protective regime,” FOX10 reported.
The judge also ordered the parents to alternately live in the camper parked at the back of the house. While one parent was in the RV, the other was supposed to live in the house with the children.
Need help? In the United States, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for National Domestic Violence Hotline.
If you or someone you know needs help, call or text 988 or chat to 988lifeline.org for mental health support. Additionally, you can find local mental health and crisis resources at dontcallthepolice.com. Outside the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.