Neighbors shocked by murder-suicide in northern Alberta Violence 'out of character' for man suspected in murder-suicide:


http://www.calgaryherald.com/Neighbours+shocked+murder+suicide+northern+Alberta/1835458/story.htmlNeighbours shocked by murder-suicide in northern Alberta



RCMP forensics investigate the home where four members of a family were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide on a northern Alberta farm near Smith on July 27, 2009.

More Images »

RCMP forensics investigate the home where four members of a family were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide on a northern Alberta farm near Smith on July 27, 2009.

Photograph by: Ryan Jackson, Edmonton Journal

A suspected triple-murder suicide has shocked neighbours in this tiny hamlet, where people meet for drinks at the Wildcat Saloon and shop at the general store, and some customers like to visit and talk on the front porch as long as there's daylight.

On Monday, while many residents went off to work at forestry or oilpatch jobs, or did chores on their farms, a police forensics identification team combed through a small blue house just off an unpaved road about 15 kilometres outside the hamlet.

It's in that house, just off that road, that a grandfather is believed to have killed his wife, his daughter, his school-aged granddaughter, then committed suicide this weekend.

Family identified the grandfather as Ian Paget, 58, and his wife as Joan.

"It's out of character for Ian to have done that," said Philomena Paget, whose husband is Ian Paget's uncle.

"We just can't fathom it at all. He never even as much as raised his voice. He would tolerate a whole lot of abuse verbally and otherwise and just never say anything. Who knows, if he didn't leave a

note or anything? It just seems odd that all of a sudden this happened."

"It's just a terrible thing. My husband is just totally devastated. Ian's niece just died of cancer a month ago. She was 26. That was quite a devastating thing."

Smith is normally a safe place, the kind of place people like Bill Stirling come to, hoping raise their children far from the bustle of the big city.

The Stirlings moved to the area almost 30 years ago, after a violent break-in next door to the family's house in Calgary convinced them to pack up and head north.

When Bill and Sandy Stirling first heard sirens and saw helicopters on Sunday, they assumed there was a fire in the dense woods surrounding the area. When the sirens kept coming, they thought there could be trouble with partygoers at the nearby lake, then guessed RCMP were doing a training exercise.

"It's a damn shame," Bill Stirling said after he learned the news.

The Stirlings said the family involved in the tragedy had lived in the area almost as long as they have.

The grandfather worked as foreman in the oilpatch and shared the house with his first wife and daughter, Bill Stirling said. The daughter was separated from her husband, who lived in a nearby house on the same road. The couple's school-aged children, a boy and girl, went back and forth between the two houses.

On Monday, a young boy straddled his bicycle about 20 metres from the property, where laundry hung from a cord in the yard and a large dog wandered loose. Two RCMP cruisers blocked the driveway.

Their neighbours had problems, like anyone, the Stirlings said. At least two neighbours said the older couple may have had problems with alcohol. There were also rumours of financial troubles, Bill Stirling said.

"They were never the type of people who would have had real knock-'em-down fights," said Sandy Stirling.

Joan was an animal lover who raised sheep and horses. She had stopped by the Stirlings' property on Saturday with some sheep's milk to feed to the goats.

"She'd bend over backward to help you," Sandy Stirling said. "She was good hearted."

A victim's services team from Slave Lake was in Smith on Sunday night, said Pastor Joe Mrak of the Bethany Christian Church.

Mrak has been working with the man who lost his young daughter and estranged wife. The man and his children were active members of the church, Mrak said, and the 50-person congregation will support the man and his son in the weeks ahead.

"He's hanging in there, but we don't know how his emotions will play out in the next few days," Mrak said of the man.

"It's devastating for the whole community. It's so small and everyone knows everybody."

The hamlet juts up against the winding Athabasca River and is surrounded by dense boreal forests that seem to stretch forever.

Most people in the area work in the forestry industry, the oil and gas sector, or in agriculture. Logging trucks lumber down the unpaved roads in winter, and, in summer, tourists brave the bumpy streets to reach Fawcett Lake.

The closest city is Slave Lake, where some residents drive for work, and where the RCMP are dispatched from when trouble happens.

The first hint of this latest trouble came around 6:30 a. m. Sunday, when Slave Lake RCMP surrounded a rural house after a call about a possible homicide on the property.

An RCMP Emergency Response Team arrived from Edmonton and Red Deer, and the four bodies were later discovered inside the house.

The Mounties have yet to confirm the details surrounding the deaths, but have said the suspect was among the dead. Slave Lake RCMP said they have no record of any family-related violence calls to the home.

Police have not yet released the names of the victims. Autopsies will be performed this week.

Smith is about 200 kilometres north of Edmonton.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal