DE SOTO, MISSOURI – Police in eastern Missouri are investigating the discovery of four bodies after a mother apparently shot her three young daughters in the head before killing herself on steps leading to the front door of her ex-boyfriend's residence, officials said.
The four bodies were discovered on early Thursday morning in front of a residence in an area about 4.3 miles (6.9 kilometers) southwest of De Soto, a city in southern Jefferson County. The discovery was made by police officers after the ex-boyfriend of one of the victims called police.
Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer said three young girls were found dead inside a vehicle which was parked in the front yard of the residence. "A 32-year-old female was discovered a short distance away at the steps leading up to the porch of the front door to the residence," he said. "All had suffered gunshot wounds to the head."
Boyer said investigators are treating the incident as a murder-suicide, based on a preliminary investigation. He said the mother, identified as 32-year-old Lisa Cochran, had emailed family members, friends and her ex-boyfriend at 7:54 p.m. local time on Wednesday to say goodbye.
"The header on the email began with 'Goodbye' and made several references in the email about not being able to take it no more and the lives of four people," Boyer told reporters during a news conference. "That information, the purchase of the shotgun, and compiling everything we have so far, leads us to believe that we're dealing with a murder-suicide and not a homicide."
It is believed that none of the woman's family members, friends or the ex-boyfriend read the email before the incident. "We don't have any indication that the people that received the email received it in time to where they could react to it," Boyer said. "I mean how many of us check our email after 8 o'clock at night?"
Cochran had purchased the shotgun at a Walmart store in Arnold, Missouri, on August 29. "It was purchased by Lisa Cochran. We have investigators in Arnold now that are trying to recover the receipt and possibly, if it still exists, the in-store video of the purchase," the sheriff explained.
The ex-boyfriend of the woman made the discovery of the crime scene but did not approach the vehicle or his house because Cochran had a court order against him. "He did not want to violate that court order, that's the reason he didn't drive up into that driveway when he saw her van there," Boyer said.
"He simply backed out, contacted us, we responded back to the residence with him, and the officer went up to the van," the sheriff added. "Unfortunately expecting to see her in the van, probably wanting to get some clothes which is common in these types of incidents, instead he was met with the three deceased children and located her a short distance away."
The woman's ex-boyfriend was interviewed by investigators and later released. "At this point in time we haven't totally cleared anybody. He was never a suspect, he was a witness," Boyer said. "I have to say that he was a very outgoing witness, he was very cooperative and gave us no indication that he was involved but we're still in the middle of this investigation. We have a long way to go."
The three children were identified as 22-month-old Faith Ehlen, 10-year-old Autumn Cochran, and 11-year-old Alyssa Cochran. The woman was the mother of all three children, but the ex-boyfriend was the father of only one of them. The two older girls are believed to be from a previous marriage.
It was not immediately known why the woman had a court order against her ex-boyfriend, but Boyer said his office was not aware of any incidents between them. "She probably went directly to the prosecutor's office to obtain this court order," he said. "There's a good chance we were not involved at all."
It was also not immediately known how long the two had been separated and how long they previously lived together. "It is my understanding she was currently living with her parents, and I have no idea how long she had been living together with her estranged boyfriend prior to moving out," Boyer said.