Gary Reitnauer, 59, killed his two children Kimberly Reitnauer; 16; and Jamie Reitnauer, 10
A Bucks County couple and their two children died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning Monday when the husband committed suicide by leaving his car running in the garage and the others were overcome by the fumes as well.
According to Pennsylvania State Police, troopers responded around 11:20 p.m. Monday to find the four family members - identified as Gary Reitnauer, 59; Michele Reitnauer, 58, Kimberly Reitnauer; 16; and Jamie Reitnauer, 10 - inside a residence on the property, on the 1500 block of Kumry Road in Milford Township. None could be revived, police said.
Kimberly was a junior at Quakertown Community High School, and Jamie a fifth grader at Trumbauersville Elementary, according to a statement on the Quakertown Community School District website.
According to accounts from Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler and a State Police spokesman, Gary Reitnauer went into the garage Monday night and broke a latch on a garage door so that no one could get in. He then started his car and left it running.
At some point, authorities said, his wife tried to break into the garage by smashing a window with a hammer, but she was overcome by the fumes before she could rescue her husband.
The older daughter, Kimberly, was found dead in the garage as well, police said, and Jamie was found dead in the residence as carbon monoxide filled the home.
Police said the cause of death appeared to be carbon monoxide poisoning, but that the coroner's office would make a final determination. A message left with the coroner's office Tuesday afternoon was not immediately returned.
The children's grandmother lived in another residence on the property and is still alive, authorities said.
According to the school district's statement, Kimberly received the top possible score on the Advanced Placement calculus exam at the end of her sophomore year, and took calculus-based physics courses at Bucks County Community College over the past two summers.
She was also a trumpet player, the statement said, and was set to depart for a trip to Erie this week with the high school's jazz band. She was also set to play trumpet in the orchestra in the school's upcoming musical, and she sang soprano in the school's choir.
"There is not a kid in the music department who will not be touched by her passing," choir director Jonathan Lechner said in the statement. "She was a high-energy, high-achieving, vivacious person."
Her younger sister Jamie, the statement says, "was following in her sister's footsteps," adding that she was on the Reading Olympics Team, played in the school band and sang in the school's chorus.
Carbon monoxide apparently killed a married couple and their two children in an eastern Pennsylvania home where police found a car running in the garage, stunning friends and neighbors who recalled the family Tuesday as happy and outgoing.
It wasn't clear whether the car was left running accidentally, or whether it was an intentional act. State police declined to comment on the investigation.
Police were called to the home in Milford Township in rural Bucks County, about 45 miles northwest of Philadelphia, at 11:20 p.m. Monday.
"When troopers arrived at the residence, they found the house was clearly filled with high levels of carbon monoxide from a running vehicle in a garage below (inside) the residence,'' state police Lt. Vincent D'Angelo said in a news release.
The fire department also responded and discovered the victims. Efforts to revive them were unsuccessful. All four "appeared to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning,'' D'Angelo said.
Police identified the victims as Gary and Michele Reitnauer and their children, Kimberly, 16, and Jamie, 10. Property records show the couple bought their ranch-style home at the end of a long driveway in 1996.
"Good man,'' a nephew, Rob Zern, said. "The family was trying to save each other and it didn't work out ... don't know what all went wrong, but it's a tragedy all around.''
The Quakertown Community School District announced the deaths on its website and said counselors would be made available to help grieving students and teachers.
Six high school classmates of Kimberly Reitnauer placed flowers on the family's mailbox Tuesday afternoon, then formed a circle, clasped hands and prayed. Afterward, they remembered their friend as a highly intelligent student near the top of her class, and as a talented musician who played piano and trumpet. She was happy, kind and humble, they said.
Everyone here loved her. She always had a smile on her face. Her whole family did. They were just the happiest people, and they made everyone else feel the same way,'' said Aislinn Strohecker, 17, a close friend and neighbor.
Neighbors said there was no inkling of trouble in the Reitnauer home.
Michele Reitnauer, 58, gave Christmas cookies every year to a well-drilling company down the gravel road, and would fetch the company's mail when she got her own, according to Gloria Mayberry, a secretary at the firm. Gary Reitnauer, 59, known as "Ozzy,'' would use the bucket on his John Deere tractor to take his trash can to the end of the drive, a cigar usually hanging from his mouth, she recalled.
The children were adopted from China, according to Maggie Chambers, a neighbor and Strohecker's mother. She said they were "just the sweetest family.''
"It's not that kind of family. For me to even think for a minute that this was a deliberate thing, it's just not them,'' Chambers said. "It's not.''
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