Suspect, 3 victims identified in murder-suicide at Phoenix home

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
Michael, Carol and Audra Sanders By Catherine Holland Michael, Carol and Audra Sanders By Catherine Holland
Carol Sanders By Catherine Holland Carol Sanders By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Police have identified the four members of a Phoenix family who are dead in the wake of a tragic domestic violence incident at a Phoenix home.

Phoenix police Sgt. Trent Crump said the gunman was Michael Sanders, 53.

Sanders killed his wife, Carol, their 14-year-old daughter, Audra, and his wife's brother, Tom Fitzpatrick, before killing himself, according to police.

Carol's body was found burning in the backyard. Fitzpatrick's body was found in the driveway and the Audra's body was in the house. The suspect was later found dead in an alley about a block and a half away from the home.

Police were called to the scene about 4 p.m. Tuesday after getting reports of shots fired in the residential neighborhood near Tatum Boulevard and Thunderbird Road.

Police say it apparently started when Carol, 51, apparently tried to leave the home after a court appearance Tuesday. She had reportedly filed for divorce in October. Sanders was served on Oct. 7. Carol also had an order of protection against Sanders, which reportedly was modified just hours before the shooting.

"I understand he had an order of protection put out against him, and it may very well be related to that," Crump said in the hours after the bodies were discovered.

Crump said Wednesday morning that while Sanders, who claimed to be a state-at-home dad in court paperwork, lived in the northeast Phoenix home, "the family had moved out some time ago."

Investigators believe Sanders had given his family some time to collect a few things from the home after Tuesday's court hearing, but he never intended to let them leave.

"It certainly is a chilling case .... We believe it was planned out," Crump said. "He left his identification in his vehicle, [which was parked down the street].

"We understand, by witness accounts, that he first shot the brother seated in his truck in the front driveway," Crump continued. "He then went into the home were additional gunshots were heard. We believe that was the daughter and the mother. Ultimately, we believe he took his wife out back and set her body on fire."

Tuesday was not the first time police were called to the Sanders home. Investigators told 3TV they were at the house about a month ago because Sanders was suicidal.

Family friends told 3TV that things hadn’t been going well for the couple but that Sanders had said he would never leave his wife and daughter.  Friends also said he was very protective Audra and extremely involved in her activities at Desert Shadows Middle and Elementary School.

However, those same friends told 3TV that Sanders had a hot temper and was eventually asked by Desert Shadows staff to stay away from the school.

After the shooting, neighbors in the area were evacuated as police and SWAT teams circled the scene. Police even sent a robot into the home, where their worst fears were confirmed.

"I haven't seen a case that I can think of recently, I guess I've seen people burned, but it certainly is a horrific scene," Crump said.

While the identifications are preliminary at this point in the investigation, detectives believe this was the Sanders family.

"Certainly everything is pointing to this being the Sanders family," Crump said. "We'll need some help from the Medical Examiner's Office just because of the extent of injury, [particularly to Carol's body]."


The Associated Press contributed to this report