Murder-suicide suspected in Oak Lawn fire, 4 dead - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Murder-suicide suspected in Oak Lawn fire, 4 dead

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(Mitch Armentrout) (Mitch Armentrout)
Two people were found dead during a fire in the 9800 block of 51st Avenue in Oak Lawn on Wednesday morning. / photo by Mitch Armentrout Two people were found dead during a fire in the 9800 block of 51st Avenue in Oak Lawn on Wednesday morning. / photo by Mitch Armentrout
OAK LAWN, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

The suspected gunman in an Oak Lawn murder-suicide that left four dead Wednesday argued with family members during a birthday party the night before, a source close to the case told the Chicago Sun-Times.

John Conta Jr. was one of those celebrating the 5th birthday of his nephew at the family home in the 9800 block of 51st Avenue, and at some point, Conta argued with family members, the source said.

But guests at the party have told investigators that they believed the argument had been "amicably resolved," the source said.

The next morning, however, investigators responded to a grisly scene: John Conta Sr., 67, and his wife, 68-year-old Janice Conta, were found dead inside their home ­— both shot in the head. Matthew Meier, the boy celebrating his birthday, was also found fatally shot in the head inside the home, which had been intentionally set on fire, the source said.

A fire commander on his way to work arrived at the home to find the garage door propped open with a baseball bat. Inside, the fire commander found a man — believed to be John Conta Jr. — sitting in an SUV with its engine running, the source said. Moments later, Conta shot himself in the head with a shotgun, the source said.

"He opened the door and observed an adult male in the driver's seat take his own life with the use of a shotgun," Oak Lawn Police Chief Mike Murray said.

Conta Jr., who lived at the home, was pronounced at scene at 10:20 a.m., a representative for the medical examiner's office said. An autopsy Thursday confirmed he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the face and ruled his death a suicide.

John Conta Sr., 67, was pronounced at the scene at 5:40 a.m. Janice Conta, 68, and 5-year-old Matthew Meier were dead at the scene, according to the medical examiner's office.

An autopsy Thursday found Conta Sr. died of multiple gunshot wounds, and Janice and Matthew each died of a shotgun wound to the head, according to the medical examiner's office. Their deaths were ruled homicides.

"The shotgun was recovered. That was the only weapon that we found," Murray said.

The boy's body was not found until about 4:20 p.m., hours after the other bodies had been located.

The firefighter who witnessed the suicide was allowed to take the rest of the day off.

Sheets said the incident "is certainly a tragedy" that "impacts the family, the neighborhood, the community, the firefighters, it impacts everyone. Our hearts and prayers go out to the family members of the victims."

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