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Steve Kuchera, Forum Communications Co., Published August 20 2010

Wisconsin Guard veteran apparently kills family, himself

SUPERIOR, Wis. – Superior police investigators were busy Thursday trying to understand why an Army National Guard veteran apparently killed his pregnant wife, their young daughter and three dogs before taking his own life.

At a news conference, Superior Police Chief Floyd Peters called the deaths of Matthew Magdzas, 23; April Oles-Magdzas, 26; and Lila Magdzas, 13 months, an “incomprehensible trag­e­dy.”

The deaths were reported at 12:36 p.m. Wednesday when Oles-Magdzas’ mother called 911 from the couple’s home at 2011 22nd St. N., reporting that her daughter, son-in-law and grandchild were in the residence and believed that “he killed them all.”

Police arrived at the home within two minutes. Emergency workers quickly determined that the three were beyond help, Peters said.

Family members last had contact with the victims around 2 p.m. Tuesday, Peters said. Autopsies were being conducted Thursday. Police recovered a handgun suspected to be the murder weapon.

Police have not been able to determine a motive for the shootings. To Peters’ knowledge, no note was found. Police had had no prior calls to the residence for any domestic incidents or disturbances. Additionally, Magdzas had no adult arrests with the Superior Police Department, Peters said.

The investigation at the scene came to a stop late Wednesday evening when officers discovered what appeared to be two pipe bombs in a backpack in the home. Officers evacuated the home until members of the 148th explosive ordinance disposal unit arrived Thursday morning. The unit’s members determined the objects probably were not explosive. However, in accordance with their procedures the devices were taken to a safe location and destroyed.

Wisconsin National Guard Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie said Magdzas enlisted in the Guard in 2004 and was assigned to the Superior-based 950th Engineer Company. He has been in a non-drilling status for about a year.

Magdzas volunteered to deploy overseas with a Guard artillery unit in 2006. The unit protected convoys moving between Kuwait and northern Iraq. His deployment ended in 2007.

Steve Kuchera is a writer for the Duluth News Tribune