BY CAL STONE • STAFF WRITER • JANUARY 20, 2011
Shortly after noon Jan. 14, Novi police officers entered a residence on Applebrooke Drive, near Nine Mile and Napier roads, and discovered three murdered victims — Jennifer Schons, 38, and her two sons, Tynan, 6, and Camden, 4. In an apparent suicide, the body of her husband, Mark Schons, 39, was discovered around 2:24 p.m. in his vehicle in the Walmart parking lot at I-96 and Milford Road in Lyon Township.
Novi police received autopsy results Saturday morning from the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office. Jennifer Schons died from multiple stab wounds. Tynan was smothered and died from asphyxiation. Camden also died from asphyxiation, but was not smothered, said David Molloy, Novi’s chief of police.
Mark Schons died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“We’re backtracking to see where he purchased a small grill and charcoal which he lit inside the SUV, producing enough carbon monoxide to suck all the oxygen out,” Molloy said.
The chief also said that he believes a knife recovered inside the SUV was the one used to kill Jennifer Schons.
A friend of the family called Novi police indicating the children did not show up for school and that the their mother had missed a scheduled appointment with her friends. Officers responded to the residence and discovered the crime scene.
Molloy said police received information from the family that the couple had been experiencing marital troubles and considering divorce, but that they were still living in the home.
“We don’t believe there has been any filing (for divorce) at this time,” Molloy said.
Molloy said that rumors of gunshots are factually inaccurate. All three bodies were found in separate bedrooms. The bodies were transported to the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s office for autopsies.
The chief could not comment on the condition of the house, if there were signs of struggles, or how long the family lived there. To his knowledge, there was no suicide note either.
After the Novi police issued a be-on-the-lookout for Mark Schons’ vehicle, an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy from the Lyon Township substation located the GMC Arcadia in the parking lot, approached it and found the victim.
“I commend the deputy,” Molloy said. “He had checked several areas, and did one last check and decided to go through the parking lot and he saw the vehicle; hats off to that deputy.”
Novi police then assisted the Michigan State Police in processing the crime scene after a warrant was issued by the 52-1 District Court.
“Our job now is to move backward and try to figure this out and identify what has taken place in the last 19 to 20 hours,” Molloy said. “We may never know what triggered this event, but we will know everything about these victims and what has led to this.”
Laptop computers, digital phones and social media will be analyzed over the next several weeks, Molloy said.
Molloy said that Mark Schons has no documented criminal history, and that Novi police have had no previous contact with any of the victims or the home. He did say that Schons owned a business in Howell, Party Central, that had recently gone out of business, and that he was working as a computer programmer in Lansing.
Jennifer Schons was a paint engineer with General Motors, according to Molloy.
Asked if the couple had filed bankruptcy, Molloy said there was “preliminary information of financial difficulty,” and that checking to see if the couple had filed for bankruptcy would be part of their victimology procedure.
“We know that the female victim has some family in western Wayne and Oakland County and that her parents are currently out of town,” Molloy said, adding that Mark Schons has family in northern Oakland County.
Although the family’s home is located in Novi, the two children attended Northville schools. They had only missed school Friday, Molloy said.
Dr. Leonard Rezmierski, superintendent of Northville schools, attended the press conference, held at the Novi PD’s Training Center. He and his staff have been more than accommodating and have their critical response plan in action, Molloy said.
“It’s an almost unspeakable tragedy to put our arms around,” Rezmierski said, adding that the district is using the ListServ e-mails to notify the community. Grief counselors will be working with students as well.
The following message was sent through the community via a ListServ e-mail around 7:30 p.m. Friday: “It is with tremendous shock and sadness that we report the tragic homicide deaths of two Thornton Creek students: a first-grader, a 3-year-old student in our Early Childhood Education program, and their mother. These deaths were accompanied by the suicide death of their father.
“We deeply grieve the loss of this family from our Thornton Creek community and recognize the urgent need for crisis support for our students, staff and community over the coming days and weeks. Sharon Irvine, principal of Thornton Creek, will send a Listserv message to the Thornton Creek community, notifying them of the comprehensive school plan for support that will begin on our students’ return Monday morning.”
“It’s very difficult,” the superintendent said. “They feel vulnerable and exposed.”
Grief counselors were available, too, for the police officers working the case, Molloy said.
“As investigators and officers, our hearts go out to the victims,” he said. “Many of these investigators have children at home. It’s very sad news.”
Molloy added that this is an isolated incident of domestic violence and, although very tragic and severe, “Novi is a very safe community,” he said.
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