NC man killed wife, 3 children, family dog before killing self, deputies say

VANCEBORO, N.C. -- A man shot and killed his wife and three children and their family dog before turning the gun on himself, according to Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes.

Hughes spoke Monday morning describing a tragic scene that disturbed both the community and the investigators who worked the case.

"To my knowledge, Craven County has never experienced such a senseless loss of innocent lives in modern times," Hughes said. "Officers with over 40 years of experience have described this as one of the most horrific crime scenes in their careers."

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Craven County Sheriff Chip Hodges described a grisly scene of a murder-suicide at a Vanceboro home last week.

Investigators arrived at the Vanceboro home Friday, Jan. 24 after getting a call from a family member concerned that they had not been able to reach their loved ones since Wednesday.

Craven County deputies said all the doors to the home were locked and there was no sign of forced entry. However, deputies did look through a window and saw a body inside the home.

When deputies got inside the house they found a heart-wrenching scene.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families that were involved. It's just a very sad time," Hughes said.

In the living room of the home, deputies found four bodies. April Ireland, 26, and Karen Ireland, 8 months, were located on one couch with gunshot wounds. Michael Jason Ireland, 4, and Bryson Ireland, 3, were found on another couch also with gunshot wounds.

In the master bedroom, deputies found the family's dog shot dead next to Michael Ray Ireland, 39, who had an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Autopsies on all the victims were performed Sunday. Investigators are awaiting the final autopsy reports.

Hughes said at this time it's unclear exactly when the crime took place. He said it happened sometime between Wednesday night and Friday morning.
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