TURLOCK — The deaths of four people found in a Turlock home Thursday night are being investigated as a murder-suicide, police said Friday.
A female family member who had not seen or heard from the victims – a 78-year-old man, his wife, 70, and their two sons, ages 39 and 42 – found the bodies inside the home in the 3000 block of Red Oak Court about 10 p.m. and called police.
A preliminary investigation indicates the four had been dead at least 24 hours, but likely longer, said police spokeswoman Mayra Lewis. The bodies, found in various areas of the home, had been there long enough for decomposition to begin, she said.
Lewis would not say how the four died. Officials working in the home Friday were wearing gas masks and reported the smell of gas in the home.
Firefighters were at the scene because of an element of arson, Lewis said. Detectives are investigating whether the killer tried to conceal the homicide with a fire before taking his own life. Lewis would confirm only that the sole woman in the house is not a suspect.
Police did not release the names of the victims, but believe they are the home’s residents. Property records show the owners as Sarkis and Rozmary Babakhan. Public records confirm that a Rodney Bowman, 39, resided at the address and had changed his name from Radni Babakhan. Neighbors said the older son was developmentally disabled; his identity has not been confirmed.
Lewis said an autopsy will be conducted Tuesday, at which time police should be able to officially release the names of the victims and the apparent killer, and possibly comment on a motive and cause of death.
Next-door neighbor German Eishoei said she’d see the father gardening and his youngest son smoking cigarettes in the front yard.
Neighbor Brian Ban said he’d see the mother taking walks with one of her relatives, believed to be the woman who discovered the bodies. The couple’s older son, he said, had Down syndrome and would get picked up weekly in a van for treatment.
Former neighbor Papiola Aghassi described the parents as very loving and said they took care of their developmentally disabled son.
She said she also saw Bowman about a year ago and he appeared to be very happy. “The Assyrian community is basically in shock that this has occurred,” she said.
The quiet neighborhood in north Turlock, between Pitman High School and Highway 99, was the scene of another murder-suicide in 2011.
A man shot his former partner and then himself in front of their 8-year-old son when they drove to the neighborhood separately to exchange custody of the boy. The shooting was on Grand Oak Drive, about a block from Friday’s crime scene.
Anyone with information regarding the case on Red Oak Court is asked to contact Detective Brandon Bertram at (209) 668-5550, ext. 6623. The Turlock Police Department is a participant in the Crime Stoppers program; callers can leave an anonymous tip by calling Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636 and may be eligible for a cash reward. Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter @ModestoBeeCrime.