Father's murder of 3 children stuns small town
By the Associated Press
KILL DEVIL HILLS, NC--Residents left flowers and notes Monday on the blackened spot of pavement where the bodies of three murdered children were found in a burning van. Their father had committed suicide nearby.
Even Police Chief James Gradeless, a 20-year law enforcement veteran who also served with Special Forces in Vietnam, was shaken by what he saw this weekend in his normally quiet town.
"It's not a Kill Devil Hills story," Gradless said. "It's an American Story. It bothers all of our consciences because somewhere, someplace, society has failed to prevent this kind of thing from happening."
Douglas Mont, 35, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the woods about 150 feet from the First Flight airport parking lot where the van was found early Sunday.
His children were shot in the head with the same gun; they did not die in the fire, which was so hot it melted parts of the van, Gradeless said.
The children's mother, Nancy Mont, had reported them missing from their home in Seaford, Del., after they did not return from visiting their father. The couple had separated in August.
Cpl. Preston Lewis, a spokesman for the Delaware State Police, confirmed the identities of the children as Catrina J. Mont, 9; Daniel Preston Mont, 6; and Theresa Lynn Mont, 4.
On Monday morning, a green basket of silk flowers had been placed at the scene with a sign saying "Three little angels from Alex, Sam and Ray." The van and the bodies had been removed.
The town of 4,200, a short distance from Kitty Hawk where the Wright brothers made aviation history, had not seen a murder since a drug-related killing in 1978.
Investigators said they don't know why Mont took his children to North Carolina or why they were killed.
In Seaford, where the children lived with their mother, Nancy Mont and her family declined to talk to reporters. A mini-car and other toys were strewn about the back yard of the family's Cape Cod home, the biggest house on the block.
Neighbors who live down the street with their three children, said Nancy Mont changed her routine after she and Mont separated, driving her children to and from the school bus stop, rather than letting them walk alone.
Court records indicate that she had accused her husband of abusing her last year, but state police said no charges were filed.
Under terms of the couple's visitation agreement, the children were not allowed overnight visits with their father, and Nancy Mont told authorities he had brought them back home on time until last weekend.
When they didn't return Saturday, she contacted police, and about 1:30 a.m. a passer-by saw the Ford Aerostar van on fire. Firefighters did not discover the children inside until after they had extinguished the flames.
Police searching for clues after the fire found a man lying on his stomach in the woods. When they asked him to put his hands up, he raised his right hand in the air, raised a handgun to his ear with his left hand and shot himself, Gradeless said. He was later identified as Mont.
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