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Officials: deaths in Jefferson County likely murder-suicide

Updated at 1 p.m. with information from Boyer's later press conference

The Jefferson County sheriff says although an investigation continues, evidence continues to mount that the deaths of a woman and her three children at a home in DeSoto, Mo. are a murder-suicide.

Glenn Boyer says the mother, 32-year-old Lisa Cochran, sent an email to friends, family and her ex-boyfriend  about 8 p.m. Wednesday night with the subject line, "Goodbye." Boyer declined to provide many more details of the email, calling it a personal letter, but says Cochran said she couldn't take it anymore, and referenced four lives.

The victims are:

  • Lisa Cochran, 32
  • Alyssa Cochran, 11
  • Autumn Cochran, 10
  • Faith Ehlen, 22 mos.

Alyssa and Autumn were Lisa Cochran's daughters with her ex-husband. Faith Ehlen's father, Christopher Ehlen, the ex-boyfriend, was the first to call police about 12:30 this morning after seeing Cochran's van at his property. Cochran had taken out an order of protection against Ehlen, Boyer said, and Ehlen did not want to violate the order by approaching Cochran. Boyer says Ehlen left the property, and called deputies from a nearby road.
Boyer says Cochran purchased the 12-gauge shotgun used in the killings at the Arnold Wal-Mart on Aug. 29.  He says there is no mention of the gun in the email.

Ehlen has been released from custody. Boyer says he was a very cooperative witness, but "no one is totally cleared" until the investigation is complete.

Our earlier story:

In an update to a story we brought you in our morning headlines this morning, Jefferson County officials say it's looking more and more like the deaths of a mother and her three children were a murder-suicide.

Sheriff Glenn Boyer said in a morning press conference that investigators had found an email indicating the 32-year-old mother had contemplated such an action, but have yet to rule anything out. Boyer did not know the exact contents of the email, or when it had been sent. 

The estranged boyfriend of the woman called 911 about 12:30 a.m. today after he spotted her van at his property in DeSoto, Boyer said. The woman had an active order of protection against the boyfriend, so Boyer says to avoid violating that order, the boyfriend left and called from a nearby road.

The woman and the children, ages 1, 10 and 11, were all shot in the head with 12-gauge shotgun. Boyer calls it among the worst scenes he's worked in 38 years in the business.

"[In] recent memory, when I took office back in [1993], we had an individual that committed suicide  and shot both of her small children with a .357 Magnum handgun," Boyer said. "This was as bad, if not worse."

The names of the victims have not been released. 

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.