HAVERHILL — The man and woman whose bodies were discovered in a car parked near Winnekenni Castle yesterday afternoon were the victims of an apparent murder-suicide, police said.
Martha McDermott, 36, of 180 Drakeside Road, Hampton, N.H., and the man believed by police to be her husband — Kristin Broderick, 37, of Houston, Texas — were found dead.
The bodies were found in a vehicle in the parking lot at Winnekenni Castle by park visitors who notified Haverhill police about 1:15 p.m. yesterday, according to Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for the Essex County District Attorney's Office.
After identifying the victims late last night, Monahan said no other information would be released before today. She said the state medical examiner's office will examine the bodies to gather more information about the cause of the deaths.
Police Deputy Chief Donald Thompson said the bodies were discovered shortly after 1 p.m., but would not provide any other details. He said this morning that Broderick is originally from Haverhill but was most recently living in Texas.
People walking near the castle made the discovery.
"We're shocked, saddened and horrified by this event," said Winnekenni Foundation board member Thomas Sullivan.
After the bodies were discovered, police placed crime scene tape around two cars — a silver Volkswagen with Connecticut plates and a dark maroon or brown Volkswagen with New Hampshire plates, both of which were parked in the parking lot at the top of the hill near the castle. The silver car had an infant's car seat inside.
Police refused to say whether a child was also found or if they were searching for one. Officers at the scene would say nothing about what happened at the top of the hill.
"I can say there is no danger to the public at this time," Monahan said before the deaths were ruled a murder-suicide.
The castle, built in 1875, sits on a hill in Winnekenni Park, a rural area of woodlands covering hundreds of acres where people hike, run and mountain bike, as well as snowshoe and cross country ski in the winter.
Sullivan, the Winnekeni Foundation board member, had conducted his daily noontime check of the castle yesterday. Although he noticed several cars parked on the property, nothing caught his attention, he said.
He said he left the grounds, and around 1 p.m. got a call from someone who told him police were on their way to the castle and that two bodies bad been found there.
Sullivan said he also received a text message from the castle's caretaker Paul Miller indicating someone had knocked on the door of the caretaker's house, which is next to the castle, and said he should check on a car that was parked on the property.
Later in the evening, when reporters attempted to interview Miller, a woman who answered the door said Miller and his wife had been told by police not to talk about what happened.
"They're a mess," she said.
The castle is open for social and cultural events during the good weather.
"The castle is closed for the winter, but people can go up and access the grounds, so cars come and go every day," Sullivan said. "Lately people have still been mountain biking because of the good weather. There's always activity in the area as it is public property. ... We tend to watch out for what goes on up there but unfortunately you never expect something like this to happen.''
Just before 3 p.m., a mobile Haverhill police command center arrived on the scene. A police officer who was stationed at the base of the road leading up to the castle ordered visitors to stay away from the area.
Several people had arrived at Winnekenni Park yesterday expecting to take their usual walk along the trails around the basin or nearby Kenoza Lake. One of those walkers, Keith Kay of Haverhill, was told to limit his walk to a certain area.
"It's such a wonderful recreational area and it's sad to hear of such a tragic thing," Kay said after learning about the discovery of the bodies.
Marilyn Pinet and her friend Michelle Henrick, both of Methuen, were getting ready to walk with their dogs when they learned of what had happened just a few hours before their arrival.
"This is very shocking to me," Pinet said. "It's scary and surprising. I've been coming here for years but never heard of anything like this."
Pinet and her friend loaded their dogs back into their car and left.
Around 4 p.m., Monahan said state police investigators assigned to the district attorney's office were at the castle and once they obtained positive identifications of the victims, they planned to notify relatives.
At 4:50 p.m., two tow trucks went up the road to the castle. They returned 45 minutes later, carrying the two vehicles that were being investigated.
By 6:30 p.m., the state and city police officers who had converged upon the castle had left.
The Rev. Michael Chambers, pastor of the nearby Church of the Nazarene, happened to be at Winnekenni Park while police were investigating the apparent murder-suicide.
People kill themselves and sometimes others, he said, when they have "run out of hope."
If a person feels desperate, Chambers said, he or she should reach out to family and friends and ask for help.
"You have to reach out to others," he said.
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