TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - Five people were found dead in a west Toledo garage Monday afternoon, and police say their deaths were no accident.
Toledo Police say they responded to a home on Harvest Street in west Toledo just before 3:30 p.m. Monday. Randy Ford, 56, called police after returning home to find suspicious notes from this wife, son and grandchildren. Ford told police he was unable to get into the home's garage.
When police and fire crews arrived, they used a sludge hammer to gain access to the garage. There they found Ford's wife, Sandy Ford, 54, his son, Andy Ford, 32, and Ford's grandchildren, Paige Hayes, 10, Logan Hayes, 6, and Madalyn Hayes, 5, deceased. The five, along with two dogs and a cat, were found inside a car. Police say a hose had been run from the exhaust pipe of an idling pickup truck into the window of the car.
Andy Ford was the children's uncle. Child protective services tell Toledo News Now the children were three of Sandy Ford's daughter's five children. They had been staying with their grandparents while their parents focused on one of their other children who was dealing with extreme behavioral issues.
Police say the children's biological parents, Mandy and Chris Hayes, were working trying to get the children back. That is believed to be the motive for the crime. Police believe the grandmother and uncle wanted to keep the kids from their parents so much they were willing to take their lives to do it.
Lucas County Children's Services was working to resolve the dispute, and had been at the family's home as recently as Saturday.
"We only know that there was a lot of conflict [and] allegations back and forth. That's not at all an unusual situation when you have these kinds of, I don't want to say custody, but when you have on grandparent caring [for the kids and the] parents want them back. We see this a lot in this situation," said Dean Sparks, Executive Director of Lucas County Children's Services.
Toledo Police are treating the case as a homicide investigation and say it is one of the toughest crime scenes they have ever seen.
Neighbors, Family and Friends' Reaction
Neighbors and friends of the family, along with fellow students at Sylvania's Whiteford Elementary School are shocked. Paige was in the fifth grade, Logan was in the second grade and Madalyn had just started kindergarten. The school has provided counselors and school psychologists in every classroom. On Tuesday, students are working on projects to remember the children.
Friends, family and teachers say the Hayes kids were happy, smart kids.
"They were the funnest kids. They always smiled. And the only thing I will always have in my mind is their giggles. They had the best giggles," said Anne Ceparski, a family friend.
"Wonderful kids, wonderful kids. The fifth grade student, Paige, had just won a DARE essay contest, and that shows the type of quality of kids that they are and they are going to be deeply missed," said Dr. Brad Rieger, Superintendent of Sylvania Schools.
Other school districts have reached out to the school offering support and condolences.
Daniel Cole, founder of Toledo Children's Memorial in west Toledo, said a candle has been lit there for the three Hayes children and will continue to burn for five days.
A memorial fund has been set up to help the family. Donations can be made to the "Hayes Children Memorial Fund" at any PNC Bank location. Those wishing to donate will need to inform the bank teller that the fund was started in the state of Maryland.
Funeral services will be at the Dowling Funeral Home located at 7509 New West Road. Visitation will be held Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 8 p.m. The funeral is scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m. at Olivet Lutheran Church at 5840 Monroe Street.