Facing marital problems, a husband and father of three young children murdered his family before turning the gun on himself last weekend, officials said.
Mark Jason Short Sr., 40, and his wife Megan, 33, had been struggling through problems in their marriage for some time, the Berks County District Attorney's Office announced Monday.
On Aug. 6, Short used a firearm he purchased legally to fatally shoot Megan and their children: 8-year-old Liana, 5-year-old Mark Jr. and 2-year-old Willow, and the family dog. Short then handwrote a suicide note before killing himself.
Police were called to the family's home in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, around 2 p.m. on Aug. 6 after Megan missed a prearranged meeting with her mother. Police went to the home for a welfare check, and forcibly entered through a rear kitchen window.
Police found five bodies and the slain dog in the living room area of the home, as well as a handgun, five empty .38-caliber casings and a murder-suicide note. All individuals were pronounced deceased by the county coroner later that evening.
As a result of their investigation, Berks County detectives found that the Short couple had several instances of marital disputes, and they were in the process of separating.
In early June, security for a Philadelphia hotel was called to the Shorts' room for domestic abuse, the D.A. said. On July 18, Sinking Spring police responded to a domestic dispute at the Shorts' home; no physical injuries had been found and no charges were filed. The next day, Mark Short lawfully purchased a firearm.
On July 25, Megan Short signed a lease for an apartment in Yardley, Pennsylvania, and intended to move her children there. Martin Short apparently intended to rent a moving van to help her move her belongings, as well.
"This was a very, very unfortunate incident," Berks County D.A. John Adams said Monday. "I don't know that anything can be learned, other than when leaving an abusive relationship, it's often a very dangerous time for a victim."
Adams urged anyone in similar situations to develop safety plans with their local police departments.