An Edgewood, New Jersey, man allegedly killed his wife and daughter, possibly on Christmas Day, before turning the gun on himself.
People reports that 53-year-old Michael Stasko was found dead in his apartment home in Edgewater, New Jersey, at around 7:30 p.m., from a gunshot wound to the head. His wife Melissa, 49, and their daughter Mellie, 8, were also found dead with gunshot wounds to the back of their heads. Authorities think that Michael killed his family before killing himself in an apparent murder-suicide.
According to Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli, authorities found the Staskos lifeless in their 17th-floor luxury apartment home after Mellie’s uncle called the police when the family failed to show up for Christmas dinner. The young girl was expected to be dropped off at her uncle’s home in Lees Summit, Missouri, by 1 p.m.
Authorities also indicate that the family may have been shot and killed as early as Tuesday, on Mellie’s eighth birthday. Investigators are still trying to determine the exact time the incident occurred.
The New York Times reports that the 8-year-old was found in her parent’s bed, still wearing her pajamas, with a gunshot wound behind her left ear. Her mother was laying beside her, also in pajamas, with a gunshot wound on the right side of the back of her head. Michael was found nearby with a gunshot wound under his chin. Mollino stated that mom and daughter may have been sleeping when they were fatally shot.
“We believe the shootings took place while both Mrs. Stasko and young Mellie were lying in the bed. Right now, that’s what we believe. It is also possible that it took place while they were both sleeping.”
Investigators are also trying to determine what motive Michael had when allegedly killing his family. He didn’t leave a note behind, or anything else to help authorities understand why the tragedy happened. According to Molinelli, the investigation is just beginning.
“We don’t know whether it was financial, we don’t know whether it was familial, we don’t know really perhaps what was going through Mr. Stasko’s mind for him to do this.”
The most troubling part for Molinelli was finding a young child dead. He stated when there is a death involving a child, authorities want to get to the bottom of it right away.
“I’m doing this 14 years and whenever you see an 8-year-old lying in a bed and she’s dead, we try to find answers right away and we will try to find answers on this one. It’s troubling.”
No neighbors heard gunshots or anything out of the ordinary, leading authorities to believe that Michael may have used a towel to muffle the gunshot sounds. Molinelli said that the family’s apartment, where Michael worked at home as a watch salesman, was well-kept and “lovely.” They had a Christmas tree with nicely-wrapped gifts underneath, and several holiday cards in the house.
One of the family’s neighbors, Miguelina Castaldi, 42, described the family as quiet, stating that Michael seemed conservative but loving and protective with his daughter.
“He was very protective, always holding his daughter’s hand. He just seemed like a loving father, so it’s just shocking, especially in this community.”
The community, located on Tower Drive in Edgewater, provides residents with both indoor and outdoor pools, 24-hour concierge, a fitness center, and a tennis court. Violent crimes in the area are almost non-existent. The story is still developing.
[Photo Courtesy of Scott Olson/Getty Images]