Mother, 3 kids dead in apparent homicides, suicide

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — A mother and her three children were found dead Thursday inside a northeastern North Dakota home, and police said their deaths were apparent homicides and a suicide.

Police said 35-year-old Astra Volk and her children, 14-year-old Tyler Talmage, 10-year-old Aidan Talmage and 6-year-old Arianna Talmage all had gunshot wounds. Police have not officially classified the killings as murder-suicide, but said they are not looking for any suspects and that they found a gun in the house with the bodies.

Police went to the home Thursday morning after administrators at Lewis and Clark Elementary School asked police to check on the family. The responding officer saw what appeared to be a body inside the home on Grand Forks' south side and went in.

Grand Forks Public Schools said in a statement that families were notified and it was working with the schools the children attended to provide support and counseling to students and staff.

Grand Forks County court documents show a collection agency won three civil judgments totaling about $3,750 against an Astra F. Volk in the last six months of 2017 for unpaid medical bills.

A woman by the same name set up a GoFundMe account April 25 seeking money to help pay off medical bills she said were brought about in part for treatment for mental illness. The woman said she was working full-time but that her wages had been garnished.

The fundraising account had been deleted Friday.

Paula Stevens, 58, who lives two doors down from the house where the four were found, said the family had moved into the house just a couple months ago.

"Three little kids and their mom — oh my goodness," she said.

Stevens said the house "sat empty forever" until it was recently renovated and the woman was living there as a renter. Stevens said she rarely saw the family because the woman worked odd hours and the long winter kept the kids indoors.

"This is scary," Stevens said. "Now I want to watch out for my neighbors and make sure they're OK."

Stevens and others described the neighborhood as a safe, quiet residential area. The house where the family was found was surrounded by crime tape on Thursday. The garage door was opened more than halfway, and a pink child's bicycle was overturned in the yard.

"It's a little frightening because Grand Forks is supposed to be like a safe town, a place where you can keep your doors unlocked," said Caralyne Ronai, a senior at the University of North Dakota who was walking through the neighborhood. "Four dead is upsetting to hear."