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UPDATE: Investigators suspect fatal fire may have been murder-suicide

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UPDATE: Investigators suspect fatal fire may have been murder-suicide
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

The National Park Service announced Wednesday that the deaths of three Woodbury family members at Grand Canyon National Park might not have been accidental.

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According to a news release, preliminary investigation into the deaths of Anthony DeHaven and his two children, Jace and Jersey Dehaven, revealed the possibility of a murder-suicide.

"It is important to note that these findings are preliminary and that additional investigation is ongoing," a Grand Canyon National Park news release stated.

The investigation did not indicate the involvement of an unknown person, according to the release.

The Dehavens were found dead inside a recreational vehicle that was discovered burning Monday morning near the national park's entrance.

"It's an extremely saddening and unfortunate thing when something like this occurs," said Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Shannan Marcak. "It's just very sad."

The children were students at Skyview Elementary in Oakdale - a school that had already witnessed tragedy last month when another student's parents died in a shooting incident.

"When you have two in a row it can be particularly difficult," said Jennifer McNeil, communications coordinator for District 622, which spans North St. Paul, Maplewood and Oakdale

Jace DeHaven was a sixth-grader at Skyview; Jersey DeHaven was a kindergartner there.

"Our hearts just go out to the family involved," McNeil said.

A Grand Canyon worker discovered a motor home with smoke coming from its cab at about 7:30 a.m. Monday near the park's entrance, according to the park service. Firefighters extinguished the fire after finding the RV fully engulfed in flames.

Investigators found the remains of bodies inside, which District 622 confirmed were the three members of the DeHaven family.

Neither McNeil nor Marcak could confirm reports that the family had been at the Grand Canyon on vacation.

Marcak said National Park Service investigators were working to determine the cause of the fire in conjunction with the Flagstaff, Ariz., fire department. An assessment of the fire had not been released as of Wednesday morning, Marcak said.

The National Park Service said the Coconino County, Ariz., medical examiner was working on the case. Marcak said she expected an update from the medical examiner's office sometime Wednesday.

According to a letter sent by Skyview administrators to families, the incident "has deeply affected the entire Skyview community." Students were informed of the deaths Tuesday.

McNeil said counselors and psychologists had been deployed at the school.

"The students are doing OK," she said.

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Mike Longaecker
Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
(715) 426-1072
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