Four North Bellmore children coming home from school found their mother dead in the kitchen Tuesday, while rescuers who went upstairs discovered their father, who was later pronounced dead at the hospital, Nassau police said.
Police said they believe the father initiated an apparent murder-suicide but they cautioned that the investigation was still in the early stages.
The couple was identified by a source as Thomas Hayes, 43, and his wife Sherrelle, 44.
A note found in the home, on the 1300 block of Smith Avenue, told the children that their parents were hurt and that they should call 911, police said.
The children, ages 7 to 13, had come home about 3:30 p.m. to a locked front door but entered through a side door, said Nassau police Insp. Kenneth Lack. The teenage daughter had first returned home by herself, and the father spoke to her through the front door, Lack said. The father told her to pick up her siblings: a sister, 10, and two brothers, 7 and 9, he said.
But the source said that before the daughter left, she saw her father go to a nearby shed. By the time all the children returned, their father had hanged himself upstairs and their mother was dead, stabbed to death, the source said.
The elder girl ran out of the house screaming, "Mommy's dead, Mommy's dead," said neighbor Thomas McKenna, 48.
Police did not release names, but property records and neighbors identified the homeowners as the Hayeses.
A relative confirmed Sherrelle Hayes had been killed.
Police said the children would be going to a relative's home.
Neighbors told authorities they saw both cars at the Hayes home during the day and heard arguing, the source said. At noon, people went to the Hayes home, but no one answered, the source said.
As the news spread, neighbors and friends gathered outside the cordoned-off area while police worked inside the blue home, which had a manicured lawn and an American flag on the porch.
Crying outside the taped-off area was Lauren Sudlow, 11, the younger daughter's classmate and best friend. She said she was set to go to the Hayes home Tuesday for a playdate.
"I feel so bad for them," Lauren said. "I can't believe their parents are gone."
Neighbors anguished over what could have happened between a popular couple, known for organizing block parties on the Fourth of July.
"They looked like a great family," McKenna said. "They worked hard and they had beautiful children."
Neighbor Catherine Denis said, "Just looking at them, you would never have known anything was wrong. They seemed like a great couple, like a fairy tale couple. They were a very loving family. Now they're destroyed."
With Zachary R. Dowdy
and Bill Mason