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Police: Father killed wife, 2 sons in Herndon murder-suicide

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Photo - Fairfax County police at the scene of a family home where they say four people were found dead in Herndon on Sept. 25. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Fairfax County police at the scene of a family home where they say four people were found dead in Herndon on Sept. 25. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Local,Virginia,Crime,Scott McCabe

A Herndon father shot and killed his wife and two teenage boys before taking his own life, Fairfax County police said Wednesday.

The preliminary investigation found that 57-year-old Albert Peterson shot each member of his family in the upper body inside their home at 13391 Point Rider Lane.

The bodies were discovered by police Tuesday morning after co-workers called authorities to say their colleague had not shown up for work in two days.

Killed were Albert Peterson, 52-year-old Kathie Peterson, and their two children, 16-year-old Matt, a sophomore at Westfield High School, and 13-year-old Chris, a Rachel Carson Middle School student.

The Northern Virginia community was trying to come to grips with the deaths.

The head of Blackbird Technologies in Herndon, where Kathie Peterson worked in procurement, said in a statement that employees there were "still trying to absorb the shock of this tragedy."

"[Kathie] will be remembered as a high-energy, devoted parent who always had a smile to share," CEO Peggy Styer said. "She often told stories about her sons, their sports and community activities. She is already missed."

The Petersons' church, the Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon, organized a candlelight vigil for Wednesday night. "Everyone is feeling a great deal of grief over this loss," Rev. Tom Berlin said, "and is searching for answers that are not known at this time."

Students, teachers and staff at Westfield High School, where the Matthew was a sophomore, held a tearful prayer circle Wednesday morning. Many of the students wore black as a tribute to the victims.

During the day, classmates took photos of empty chairs and desks where Matt or Chris would normally be sitting, and put them out in social media.

Matt's teammates on the wrestling team tried to cope with the loss of their cheerful teammate.

"Matt was honestly the greatest kid alive... always had a smile on his face.. and the best teammate always encouraging us," wrote @eddiepark1.

The Petersons, who lived on the corner of the entrance to the cul de sac, were described as the neighborhood greeters, often seen on their porch, grilling or kicking around a soccer ball.

Neighbors say they last saw the Peterson family at a community picnic.

Alvaro Lopes also told WNEW that Albert Peterson had been suicidal and had also been taking heart medication that may have altered his moods.

'He seemed dizzy... just different,' Lopes said. 'Hearing about what happened today made me think that could have something to do with it.'

The news of the murder-suicide comes two years to the day that another Westfield student was killed in a high-profile case.

Bo Rupp died Sept. 26, 2010 after he darted out in traffic and was struck by a vehicle in Centreville. Rupp, 15, was also a sophomore who wrestled, as well as played football and lacrosse.

Rupp's family sued the company that makes the alcoholic beverage Four Loko, saying the death contributed to his death.

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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