Crash Leads to Clues in Murder of Michigan Family

PHOTO: The VanderLinden home in Belleville, Mich., where police found Michael VanderLindens wife and two sons stabbed to death in their bedrooms.PlayABC News
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Michigan police on the way to alert a woman that her husband had died in a fiery car crash Thursday morning discovered the wife and her two young sons stabbed to death, in what appears to be a murder-suicide, authorities said.

Van Buren Township Police were contacted Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. CDT by the medical examiner in Laporte County, Ind., asking for assistance in alerting the family of Michael Vanderlinden about his death.

Vanderlinden was killed when he drove the wrong way down the I-94 highway near Michigan City, Ind., with his headlights turned off and struck another vehicle head on. The driver of the other car, Juan Nelson Jr., 45, was also killed on impact.

Officers arriving at Vanderlinden's home received no response, but found the front door open. Neighbors became suspicious, noting that Vanderlinden's wife Linda, a stay-at-home mother, was usually home in the morning. Her car was in the garage.

"All of which raised the suspicion level," said Capt. Greg Laurain, of the Van Buren Police. "Officers found door the unlocked and opened it. They entered house, but received no response. After a cursory search, they found on the first floor level the body of one of the children."

Upstairs, cops found the body of Linda Vanderlinden, 34, and another child.

According to the medical examiner's report, released this morning, Linda's cause of death was strangulation followed by stab wounds to the chest.

The two children Julian, 7, and Matthew, 4, were both stabbed about the chest and arms, leading to their deaths, Laurain said.

"The medical examiner determined that an 8.5 inch butcher knife seized at the scene was consistent with the victims' wounds," he said.

Investigators are trying to determine when in relation to the family's deaths did Vanderlinden crash his car.

The medical examiner was unable to establish a time of death for the killings.

"The husband suspected of killing his wife and children, but the investigation remains open. We're still pursuing all leads," Laurain said.

Indiana State Police said Vanderlinden's car was so thoroughly burnt that nothing of evidentiary value – no traces of blood or DNA – were discovered in the car.

Laurain said sources close to the family told police that the couple's marriage had been "strained in recent months" and Michael Vanderlinden had planned to move out.