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Beyond comprehension

April Oles-Magdzas and Matthew Magdzas smile as they are interviewed for a 2006 Superior Telegram story before Magdzas was deployed to Iraq. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)1 / 2
Members of the Superior Police Department start to process the scene of a triple homicide at 2011 North 22nd Street in Superior on Wednesday afternoon. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)2 / 2

A fawn stopped to nibble a lawn near 2011 N. 22nd St., on Thursday morning. A man walked his dog a block away. But yellow crime scene tape around the home gave a visible reminder of loss.

Superior police believe that 23-year-old Matthew Magdzas shot his pregnant wife, April J. Oles-Magdzas, their 13-month-old daughter Lila and himself at the home sometime Tuesday afternoon, said Superior Police Chief Floyd Peters at a Thursday press conference. Also found dead in the residence were three dogs. All died of gunshot wounds from a handgun.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, the friends and the loved ones of the deceased," Peters said.

The Magdzas' neighbor, Darrell Blaylock, described them as a nice couple.

"Plain, simple kids," he said.

They had recently sold their truck and purchased a car to prepare for the new baby, Blaylock said. Family members told police Oles-Magdzas, 26, was eight-and-a-half months pregnant.

"Her baby was due any day now," Oles-Magdzas' close friend Angel Johnson told the Duluth News Tribune.

Does that make the total number of dead four, Peters was asked.

"In my mind, yes," he said. "It adds to the tragic nature of this incident."

The chief said this is the most difficult incident the department has handled since the early 1980s.

"Suicides are always terrible. Homicides are always terrible," he said. "Having a pregnant mother involved and a young child is ... difficult for us and the community to even understand or comprehend at this point."

The bodies were found by Oles-Magdzas' mother at approximately 12:36 p.m. Wednesday, the chief stated. She told the 911 dispatcher that her daughter, husband, and baby were in the residence and believed that "he killed them all."

There was no sign of a struggle, Peters said, and drugs and alcohol are not suspected at this time. The department had no prior calls to the residence for any domestic incident or disturbance. Magdzas has no adult arrests with the department.

The Superior man, a 2005 graduate of Superior High School, is a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. He was deployed with the 121st Field Artillery Battalion to Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2006-07. Magdzas is still a member of the guard, but has been in a non-drilling status for the last year, according to information gathered by police.

Oles-Magdzas was a native of Carlton, Minn. and graduated from Carlton High School in 2002, according to her classmate Molly Anton, who spoke with Duluth News Tribune reporters. She had recently taken a job as an assistant cheer coach at Duluth East. Along with being a guardsman, Magdzas taught a personal firearm self-defense course for a Rice Lake-based company called Better Defense, according to information gathered by the News Tribune.

The last contact anyone had with the family was at approximately 2 p.m. Tuesday, Peters said.

Late Wednesday evening, officers discovered what appeared to be possible explosive devices located in a backpack in the residence.

"They looked to our officers to be pipe bombs," Peters said, so they evacuated the residence until members of the Minnesota Air National Guard's 148th explosive ordinance disposal unit arrived on scene and determined the devices were unlikely to be explosive.

With the investigation less than 24 hours old, many questions remain. The key one is motive.

"Were there any signs of this?" Peters asked. "Are there any ways in the future for us as a community to perhaps recognize signs and signals that could prevent things like this?"

Autopsies are being performed. Investigators will continue to interview family members, search for records and collect evidence from the home. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact the Superior Police Department tip line, (715) 395-7468, sergeant of investigations, (715) 395-7652, by texting the keyword "spdtip" and your tip to 847411 or on the Web at http://www.citizenobserver.com/cov6/app/webTipForm.html?id=5500.

"To do a complete, thorough investigation is our desire," Peters said. "We need to do that; that is what our job is."

The human cost of the tragedy became clear when a distraught woman ran from the avenue toward the crime scene Wednesday. La Lor intercepted her before she crossed the yellow police tape. As he held her, she screamed that a family member was inside. Two emergency personnel escorted her away from the home.

In the neighborhood surrounding the home, daily routines continued Thursday. But neighbors in this normally quiet area were shaken.

"It's just crazy; it's crazy," Blaylock said Wednesday. "Nothing ever happens in this neighborhood."

Duluth News Tribune reporters Lisa Baumann, Steve Kuchera and John Lundy contributed to this report.

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