By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado mother bought a handgun hours before she and her two young sons were found fatally shot inside the family's minivan, authorities said on Thursday, adding that her wounds appeared to be self-inflicted.
While stopping short of calling the deaths of 38-year-old Jennifer Marie Laber, and her sons Adam, 3, and Ethan, 5, a murder-suicide, police said the recently-purchased 9mm Glock handgun was found inside the vehicle, and all three died from single gunshot wounds.
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"We can't make that determination until the coroner completes toxicology testing, but you can read between the lines of what was released today," City of Lone Tree Police Department Sergeant Tim Beals said by phone.
A statement issued on Thursday by the Douglas County Coroner's Office said preliminary evidence suggested Jennifer Laber's wound was self-inflicted.
Laber was reported missing by Ryan Laber, her husband and the boys' father, on Tuesday night after she failed to return to the family's home in Highlands Ranch, a suburb south of Denver, after picking up their sons at school.
Authorities issued a missing person alert along with photographs of the trio and a description of the 2011 Chrysler minivan she was driving.Police also released a still photograph captured from a school surveillance camera that showed the mother leaving with the two boys.
Around 7:45 a.m. local time on Wednesday, a passerby called police to report seeing a minivan parked at a loading dock outside a shuttered sports equipment store in the neighboring city of Lone Tree that matched the description of the missing vehicle.
A responding officer found all three dead inside the van.
After the bodies were located, authorities said Ryan Laber was not a suspect in the deaths of his family and that there was no threat to the community.
Police said Laber passed a requisite background check when she legally purchased a new handgun from an undisclosed firearms dealer about an hour before picking up her sons at school.
"This is a tragic event and we wish it would have had a different outcome," Lone Tree Police Chief Ron Pinson said in a statement.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Bill Rigby)