The deaths of six children and two adults whose bodies were found in an Oklahoma house fire are being investigated as a murder-suicide, police said Friday.
Officials discovered the bodies Thursday afternoon when they responded to the blaze at a single-family home in Broken Arrow, a city just outside of Tulsa. When firefighters arrived at the house, they found two adult bodies at the front of the residence with “significant injuries” that appeared to be “criminal in nature,” Fire Chief Jeremy Moore said. As they made their way to the back of the house where the majority of the fire was burning, firefighters found the bodies of six children, ages 1 to 13, in one bedroom.
The two adults, who were identified as Brian Nelson and Brittney Nelson, are now the primary suspects in the death investigation.
“It did become obvious to all the fire personnel on the scene that this was a crime scene,” Moore told reporters during a news conference Friday. “To arrive on scene yesterday and see the looks on our first responders, my firefighters’, faces, it absolutely broke my heart.”
A cause of death has not yet been determined, but police said they don’t believe any of the victims died from the fire. Broken Arrow Police Chief Brandon Berryhill did not answer questions about whether the victims suffered gunshot wounds or other injuries, but told reporters that officials recovered firearms from inside the home.
The situation is being investigated as a homicide “due to the nature of where they were found and where the juveniles were found,” Berryhill said.
Ethan Hutchins, a spokesperson for the police department, told BuzzFeed News on Saturday that both adults are still considered suspects. “We are waiting on the medical examiner’s investigation to be able to release the identities of the adults,” he said in an email.
When asked if police had previously received any calls about domestic violence at the location, Berryhill said it had been “numerous years” since the department had received a call about that residence. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services, which manages the state’s child and family services, did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News’s request for comment.
Kris Welch, the owner of the property, told the Tulsa World that the family had been renting the house from her for the last eight years. Welch said they seemed like “a regular family.”
“I feel like I’m going to throw up,” she said Friday as investigators went through the house.
Welch told the local newspaper she “did get some weird vibes” from one of the renters, a man, and said the other, a woman, was quiet. “She hardly ever spoke, honestly,” she said. “I always wondered about that.”
Traci Treseler, who said she lived down the street from the family for two years, told the Tulsa World she had thought there were only three children and was surprised to learn of three more.
“They were nice kids, but they always kept to themselves,” Treseler said.
She said she had invited the children to her daughter’s birthday party last year, but they declined the invitation and wouldn’t take candy bags left over from the party.
“They said that they couldn’t accept anything from anybody,” Treseler said. “It came across as a little weird to me at the time. But then I thought maybe it’s just about safety.”
Dial 988 in the US to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386. Find other international suicide helplines at Befrienders Worldwide (befrienders.org).