The family valued privacy so much that neighbors told reporters they didn’t know teenagers had been living there.
As WSMV News reports, police in Columbia, Tennessee are struggling to understand why 55-year-old mother Cynthia Collier shot and killed four of her children before turning the gun on herself in an apparent murder-suicide.
BREAKING: A mom and four children, ages 8-16, found dead in an apparent murder-suicide at a home in Columbia. I’m on scene. I’ll tell you what we’ve learned from the DA on @WSMV at 10. pic.twitter.com/2w4iI8Nt00
— Brittany Weiner (@brittweinerTV) October 16, 2018
According to the Tennessean, Cynthia and Randall Collier had been married since 1982. They have three biological children — two boys and a girl — who are now adults. Between 2003 and 2008, they adopted four children from China, three girls and one boy. It was the four adopted children who were found dead, along with Cynthia, on Tuesday evening.
The couple separated around 2007, and Randall moved out of the home in 2009. In March of 2018, Randall and Cynthia filed for divorce. During the proceedings, the teenage children all declared that they wanted to continue living with their mother. But in May, the divorce was stopped and the couple stated they were looking to reconcile.
The four adopted children — 14-year-old Bo Li, 14-year-old Meigan Lin, 15-year-old Lia Lin, and 17-year-old Kaileigh Lin — were all home-schooled by Cynthia. Local records show that she filed the proper paperwork, curriculum, and attendance records, but that none of the children participated in extra-curricular activities through the local school district.
Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland says it appears Cynthia Collier killed four of her adopted children before she took her own life. He says a piece of evidence was left behind that leads them to believe it was a murder suicide. Investigators still looking for a motive. pic.twitter.com/9BTwcnzY2r
— Forrest Sanders (@WSMV_Forrest) October 16, 2018
In fact, the family’s extreme level of privacy is a puzzle to investigators. Though Fox 17 News notes that the house had everything children could want, including a pool, tennis court, and a dog, but neighbors seemed unaware that children lived on the property.
Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland told the Columbia Daily Herald:
“This appears to be a loving home, an immaculate home and very loving family. A motive would be very important to know why someone would do this to her loved ones.”
The bodies of Cynthia and the four children were found on Tuesday evening when one of her adult children returned home from work. He then called 911. Rowland confessed to reporters that they were unprepared for the scene they discovered:
“We deal with difficult situations and carnage each and every day, but the magnitude of this was more than what we’re used to on a day-to-day basis.”
He added that they found a “brief and vague,” suicide note, and told the Daily Herald they believe it to be a murder-suicide: “All of the evidence leads toward a self-inflicted gunshot wound Mrs. Collier used on herself. There were multiple scenes throughout the house.”
Though the investigation is still in its early stages, authorities are looking for more information about what motivated Cynthia to shoot her children and herself. Rowland told the Daily Herald that at the moment, they suspect mental illness was a factor:
“It’s very difficult when you deal with mental health issues, and I highly recommend you don’t be embarrassed and don’t hesitate, but seek professional help any time that you feel a loved one, or yourself, might be suffering from that.”