A 46-year-old Pleasantville man, Chuan-Kai Liu, also known as Tom, apparently used a knife to stab his son, daughter, wife and then himself to death, village police revealed Friday night at a press conference. Police characterized a murder-suicide as the likely cause of all four deaths.
The mother, Dorothy Liu, was 42 years old. The son, Tennyson, was seven year -old and the daughter, Adeline, was just four years old.
The family moved to Pleasantvile, in the house where the killings took place, in October 2016, Police Chief Erik Grutzner said. Police are not aware of any history of domestic violence. At this point in the investigation no motive has been determined, although police are investigating considerable stress the father was apparently under, Grutzner said. Authorities did not describe the nature of that stress.
Police also did not reveal where in the house the bodies were found. Extended family is in the midst of traveling to the area, including some family from overseas. Police officials do not yet know how long the family had been dead by the time they arrived but the autopsy report could provide clues.
At 1:50 p.m. Thursday, police were asked to perform a welfare check at 57 Romer Ave. because the son, a student at Bedford Road School, did not arrive for class.
Officers entered the home through an open window to discover the bodies.
Grutzner said at the Friday evening that the man was “under a considerable amount of stress.”
“Throughout the entirety of this investigation the only information we’ve had about this family is that they were a wonderful involved set of parents with two incredibly active and amazing children,” the police chief said.
Mayor Peter Scherer said it was an “extraordinarily tough day.”
“We cannot imagine the grief they feel and the grief they feel is shared in lots of ways throughout the community,” Scherer said at the press conference.
“It’s a good place that’s suffering right now and we’ll get through it,” the mayor later said, referring to how the community has rallied under incredibly difficult circumstances.
In an interview with The Examiner, Superintendent of Schools Mary Fox-Alter noted how staff at all three schools were available throughout the day, including accredited APA psychology counselors, clinical staff and interns.
“We had a comprehensive team ready and available to individually speak and counsel teachers, staff, students and parents,” she said. “We had an extra presence in the hallways and office staff were also available to meet with kids.”
The crime police suspect occurred does have a term: familicide, a type of murder or murder-suicide in which a perpetrator quickly kills multiple close family members, then kills themselves.
In the morning before students arrived, school officials started to prepare for individual counseling with students, the superintendent explained. A room was set up where students and teachers and parents could come to seek advice. Teachers were also advised to carefully observe students’ behavior.
Village officials expect prayer vigils to be arranged in the days ahead. Fox-Alter said high school students have expressed a desire to hold a candlelight vigil in the days ahead.
Police blocked off the end of Romer Avenue closest to Pleasantville High School late Thursday afternoon. The house is less than a block from the high school and also near Pleasantville Middle School.
Westchester County Police crime scene and general investigation units are assisting in the ongoing and active investigation.
“As you can imagine our hearts are broken at the news of this incredible tragedy,” said Fox-Alter, holding back tears at a Thursday press briefing. “This is a very small community and it impacts all of us in this small village.”
An Examiner reporter spoke with two local women on Friday morning in Pleasantville. Neither wanted to provide their name.
“Sad. Horrible,” one woman said. “I heard the mother was a wonderful person.”
With tears in her eyes, a parent from the Bedford Road School said her child was Tennyson’s good friend. The woman’s child was looking forward to celebrating the boy’s birthday with him soon.
Bedford Road School Principal Peggy Galotti communicated to parents by e-mail Friday morning.
“Pleasantville is an incredibly special community,” Galotti’s note concluded. “Through their sorrow, our residents will come together to surround one another with love and kindness. Our district stands ready to assist in any way possible.”
It hasn’t just been school and village officials rallying to support the heartbroken community. On Friday in Pleasantville, the local Key Food supermarket location was already scheduled for its grand opening following major construction. Supermarket owner Richard Grobman, in town for the opening, donated fruit and cheese platters to Bedford Road School for teachers and counselors.
Fox-Alter, for her part, like Galotti, also sent out an e-mail to parents Friday, noting how the community “will support each other with kindness, compassion and care.”
The superintendent provided an article from the National Association of School Psychologists on discussing grief with children and adolescence.
Abby Luby contributed to this report.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/