Carola Arnau shot her two children to death before fatally shooting herself, according to Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni, who ruled the deaths a murder-suicide Wednesday morning.
Arnau, 40, shot her 10-year-old daughter multiple times in the head and 4-year-old son multiple times in the body as they slept, Diamantoni said.
Both deaths were ruled homicides.
Officials have declined to release the names of the children but at a prayer vigil Wednesday night, clergy identified them as Bella and Noah. Bella was a student at Hans Herr Elementary School while Noah attended preschool at a local church.
Arnau died of a single gunshot wound to the head, Diamantoni said. The manner of death was ruled a suicide.
The Strasburg community is invited to a vigil in the aftermath of the deaths of a Strasburg …
"The only small comfort I can offer ... is that it appears they would not have known," Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said at a press conference Tuesday.
"It appears they were shot in their sleep, and there would not have been any struggle, as pathetic as a comfort that that is," Stedman said.
Arnau and her children were found in a bedroom inside a home at 1433 Village Road around 3 a.m. Tuesday when emergency personnel responded to a fire there, according to the district attorney's office.
The firearm believed to be used in the shootings was found by Arnau's body, and soot from discharge of a firearm was found on her hand, according to the district attorney's office.
The handgun had been legally purchased Monday, Stedman said. The district attorney's office declined to say where she bought the gun but said there was evidence she test-fired the weapon at the home late Monday or early Tuesday, prior to the shootings.
Arnau intentionally set the fires at multiple locations inside the home and garage using an accelerant, Brett Hambright, spokesman for the Lancaster County District Attorney's office, said Wednesday.
"Barring an unforeseen development in the investigation, we are considering this murder-suicide. We have found nothing to indicate anyone but Mrs. Arnau was the shooter," Hambright said.
Arnau had been receiving mental health treatment before the incident, the district attorney's office said.
Hambright said officials have found nothing to indicate 45-year-old Miguel Arnau, Carola's husband and the children's father, was involved with the shootings or the fires.
Stedman said Miguel and Carola Arnau had been going through a "bitter" divorce and that things had "escalated" recently.
Miguel Arnau had been staying in the detached garage, which was damaged by fire, Stedman said.
"All the indications we have is that he was at work from 10 p.m. on and would not have been present at the time of these offenses," Stedman said.
Court records show that Carola Arnau filed for divorce from her husband, Miguel Arnau, on Feb. 22, 2016, on grounds the marriage was “irretrievably broken."
Carola Arnau filed a protection from abuse order against Miguel Arnau with Lancaster County Court on Feb. 24. The PFA was approved, and Miguel Arnau's custody rights to the two children were temporarily removed, according to court records.
The PFA was removed after Carola Arnau filed a motion April 4 to discontinue it, according to court records.
In April, Miguel Arnau filed for custody of the couple's children. At that time, his address was listed as an apartment in Ronks.
That filing was eventually withdrawn, but the court issued a temporary shared-custody order. Miguel Arnau was given custody every other weekend and after school until 7 p.m., pending a custody conference.
Officials are interested in getting information from the public on Carola Arnau's psychological history and state of mind in the days leading up to the incident, Stedman said at the press conference.
School district statement
Lampeter-Strasburg School District posted a statement on its website about support for families after a death of a school-aged child in the community.
The school did not confirm that either of the Arnau children attended the district because their names have not been released, according to spokeswoman Anne Harnish.
She said the statement was issued as a response to the death of a school-aged child in the community.
The statement also includes a list of questions children might ask their parents and suggestions for how to respond.
Although the school year finished last week, counseling services were available for students Wednesday morning. Students and families who could not attend at the time can contact Karen Staub, special services director, at 717-358-1015, the statement said.