Burned van possibly linked to 5 found dead in Iowa home

A woman and four children were found dead in this Iowa City home by police who received a 911 call to go to the home. (CNN/AP photo)
A woman and four children were found dead in this Iowa City home by police who received a 911 call to go to the home. (CNN/AP photo)

UPDATE: KCCI-TV in DesMoines reports that a fiery minivan crash long Interstate 80 was connected to the deaths of a woman and four children in Iowa City, police say.

Police said a Toyota Scienna that crashed near Iowa City on Interstate 80 Monday morning was later confirmed to be the van owned by the family.  The person in the van was killed in the fiery crash and police said was burned beyond recognition. The driver was "likely Sueppel," but investigators can't be completely sure until tests are conducted.

Iowa City police said they received a 911 from a male caller using the family's cell phone, telling them to go to 629 Barrington Road at 6:31 a.m.  When they arrived officers found the door unlocked and five people dead inside.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- A woman and her four children were found dead in their home Monday morning, and authorities were searching for the woman's husband, authorities said.

An ambulance and police car sit outside a house in Iowa City on Monday where five people were found dead.

Dispatchers got a call at 6:31 a.m. saying officers needed to get to the address immediately. The caller then hung up, a police department statement said.

Officers found the house unlocked and discovered the bodies inside.

"Lots of family needs to be contacted," Iowa City Police Sgt. Troy Kelsay told The Gazette of Cedar Rapids.

Officers said they were not able to find the woman's husband, Steven Sueppel. Court records show that a Steven Sueppel who lives at the address where the bodies were found was indicted last month on federal charges of stealing about $560,000 from the bank where he worked.

Police also said the family's van was missing. They said a single-vehicle, fatal crash on Interstate 80 about nine miles from the house may have involved the van. However, the vehicle was on fire so officers were having a difficult time identifying it and the occupant, according to the department news release.

While police initially said the victims had been shot, Kelsay said he was unsure how they were killed.

"I'm not certain that a firearm was ever involved," he said, adding that the victims suffered trauma. "Nobody reported hearing any shots."

Sueppel was charged last month with one count of embezzlement of bank funds and six counts of money laundering while serving as the vice president and controller of Hills Bank and Trust. Authorities said the alleged thefts occurred between July 26, 2000, and September 12, 2007.

Sueppel, 42, pleaded not guilty and was released on $250,000 bail. His trial was scheduled for April 21.

Sueppel's attorney in that case, Leon Spies, said he had heard about the deaths.

"I had great affection for Steve and his family. This is an unimaginable professional and personal tragedy for a lot of people," he said.

Based on the police alert of a gunman, students and faculty at the University of Iowa received text and telephone messages warning that there was an active shooter in the Iowa City area. That message said police were looking for a white man in his 40s, driving a minivan. KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids said public schools were locked down as a precaution.