Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Adoptive Family in the News

As an adoptive parent, or any parent for that matter, this story makes me sick. From the town where I went to college, Iowa City, Iowa....
Click here to read more about the story

Des Moines Register:
Investigators today began to fill in answers to some of the countless questions surrounding the deaths of Steven and Sheryl Sueppel and their four young children.

At a briefing this afternoon, representatives of the Iowa City Police Department and Johnson County attorney's office said:

* Steven Sueppel left a note in the family's home in which he apologized for his actions and expressed his feelings of despair over the criminal charges he was facing for embezzling from his former employer, Hills Bank & Trust.

* Sueppel's wife and children apparently were killed late on the night of Easter Sunday or early Monday morning. Their bodies were discovered about 6:45 a.m. Monday.

* The bodies were found in the master bedroom and in the children's bedrooms.

* Ethan Sueppel, 10, the oldest child, apparently was killed in the living room and his body was then taken to a bedroom. Eleanor, 3, was found in the toy room. The other victims apparently were killed in their bedrooms.

* The victims apparently died of blunt-force trama.

* Two baseball bats have been confiscated that may have been used in the killings.

* Sueppel twice tried to take his own life before ramming the family's van into a concrete abutment in the median of Interstate Highway 80 minutes after he called Iowa City police and told them to go to the house at 629 Barrington Road -- the Sueppel home.

* The first attempt occurred in the garage of the family's home early on Monday morning and involve the exhaust of the family's vehicle. Investigators believe that Sueppel had the family's four children in the vehicle with him.

* The second suicide attempt was to drown himself in the Iowa River at Lower City Park.

* Evidence of the two attempts was contained in a note Sueppel left in the home and in voice mail messages left on the family's home answering machine between 3:45 a.m. and 4 a.m. Monday did not say that he had killed his wife and children. But he did say that his family was in heaven.

* Officials believe Sheryl Sueppel was the first of the victims to be killed.

* There is no evidence of domestic strife between Sueppel and his wife, Sheryl.

* No evidence of illegal-drug use was found in the home.

The contrast between the two days was baffling - and so tragic:

Sunday morning, Steven and Sheryl Sueppel and their four children attended Easter Mass together at St. Mary's Catholic Church, an Iowa City landmark where the four children had been baptized and where the second-oldest child was expected to take first Communion later this spring.

At 6:31 a.m. Monday, police were dispatched to the Sueppel family home at 629 Barrington Road after a man using a cellular telephone belonging to the family called 911 dispatchers and said officers needed to get to the home immediately.

The caller provided no explanation and hung up. He did not answer when the dispatcher called the number back.

Five minutes later, at 6:36 a.m., another Iowa City man leaving for his job in Davenport dialed 911 on his cell phone to report that he had come upon the wreckage of a vehicle that was on fire on Interstate Highway 80, northeast of the Iowa City.

Within minutes of the first call, officers found the bodies of Sheryl M. Sueppel, 42, and her children, ages 3, 5, 7 and 10, inside their home on the east side of Iowa City - the victims of an apparent mass homicide.

Missing from the home was Steven F. Sueppel, 42, and the family's Toyota van.

But police arriving at the crash site on I-80 made the grim discovery that the Sueppel's van was the one that rammed head-on into the concrete base supporting an electronic highway message board. The vehicle was engulfed in flames when witnesses drove upon the wreckage, and the body of its only occupant was badly burned, hampering the ability of investigators to confirm their suspicions that Sueppel had taken his own life.

The deaths marked the latest chapter in the downfall of Steven Sueppel, a member of a prominent Iowa City family and the vice president and controller of one of Iowa's largest locally owned banks, Hills Bank & Trust, before he was accused of embezzling from his employer.

A federal grand jury indicted Steven Sueppel on Feb. 12, accusing him of federal embezzlement and money laundering. The indictment alleged that he was involved in the disappearance of almost $560,000 from Hills Bank. When bank officials confronted Sueppel about their suspicions last October, he said he had taken $219,000 over three years and had used most of the money to buy cocaine, according to search warrants obtained by Johnson County law officers.

The five bodies found in the Sueppel home and the body from the burned-out van will be taken to the state medical examiner's labs in Ankeny for autopsies today.

Although Iowa City police initially reported the killings as gunshot deaths, Sgt. Troy Kelsay said that report was inaccurate, and investigators have not yet located a weapon.

Kelsay would not say in what condition the bodies were found, other than that they were "beyond any medical resuscitation efforts."

"It's not pretty," he said of the crime scene.

When the first officers arrived at the house on Barrington Road and could not get anyone to answer the door or the home's telephone, they were told by a supervisor to enter, Kelsay said.

"Given the cryptic nature of the call and Sueppel's indictment, the supervisor authorized them to make entry," Kelsay said.

Police would not say exactly what officers found when they entered the two-story building. Kelsay declined to say where in the house the children or their mother were found.

The discovery of the bodies and the mystery surrounding Steven Sueppel's whereabouts led to officials locking down the Sueppel children's elementary school and the Iowa City law offices where Steven Sueppel's father and brother practice.

Iowa City-area offices of Hills Bank also locked their doors Monday morning as a security precaution and conducted business through their drive-up windows. Later Monday, as the scope of the tragedy became clearer, bank officials decided to close the offices for the day.

Forty-five minutes after the discovery of the bodies, University of Iowa police issued a campuswide alert notifying students and U of I staff members that an "active shooter" was in the Iowa City area. The alert described the suspect as a white male in his mid-40s who was driving a tan 1998 Toyota van.

The university canceled its alert after Iowa City police said the suspect was believed to have been killed when the van he was driving crashed and caught fire.

Steven Sueppel's father and brother, William F. Sueppel and William J. Sueppel, respectively, are members of the Meardon, Sueppel & Downer law firm. The elder Sueppel is one of the state's best-known experts in municipal law, and he has been a key figure for many years in the Iowa League of Cities.

Steven Sueppel had pleaded not guilty of the crimes and had been free on bail while awaiting trial. His trial was tentatively scheduled for April 21.

According to Iowa City records, since 2001 there have been three calls to the Sueppels' Barrington Road home. One was a report of a fire in April 2005; a second was a report of a suspicious person last July, and the call on Monday morning.

Update: These children were adopted from Korea through Holt, Intl. Read Here


Michelle said...

Oh, this story makes me feel physically ill. I struggle so much with the "Why" of tragedies like this. Why not just kill yourself? Why your wife and beautiful children? Why? I am so saddened by this.

Marisa said...

I'm not a parent, but that still makes me ill. How very sad! :(

Valeri said...

I hope this monster burns in deepest darkest hell for what he did to his family. This story just makes me so sad and angry. So tragic...

Kelley said...

That is a heartbreaking story. The article said that they went to church, but apparently this man wasn't hearing the message. How in the world could he do that????

Carol said...

not guilty? What is wrong with this country....how can he even PLEAD that?

Well jail will take care of him....men in jail don't take kindly to child killers!!

I shutter to think what China will do to the adoption process when word gets out about this!!!!!! Horrible!!!!!

Carol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.