A spokesman for the Iowa City Police Department says they’re hoping to learn more from autopsies being conducted today on six people in what may have been a murder suicide. Police found the bodies of 42-year-old Sheryl Sueppel and her four children in an east side home, and a short time later found the family’s minivan crashed and burned along Interstate 80.
A body that was burned too badly for identification was found in the van and may be that of 42-Steven Suepple, the husband and father of the slain women and children. Sergeant Troy Kelsay says autopsies are being conducted today on all six bodies at the state lab in Ankeny.
Kelsay says the identity of the driver of the van is key information in the case, and while he says it’s believed the body is that of Steven Sueppel, they need to confirm that through the autopsy. Kelsay says they hope the autopsies will also give more information, such as the time of death of the woman and children.
Kelsay says it may even yield more information on the "weapon or implement that caused the death." He says crime scene technicians were still out late processing the crime scene, and may have to return today to finish that job because of the size and scope of the crime scene. Kelsay says his department is taking its time to release information on the case, as they want to be sure that investigation is completed properly.
"There isn’t any public safety, I don’t believe, any public safety issues, and rather than every few minutes or few hours release a new little piece of information, we’re really trying to get on with the business of conducting the investigation," Kelsay says, "And when we have something substantial to release, that will happen." The University of Iowa sent out a campus alert a short time after the bodies were found stating there was an "active shooter" in the community.
Kelsay says that alert was based on initial findings from the officers who found the first body. He says the officer found the body and he and his partner where trying to attend to the victim and were also concerned about their safety and whether there was someone in the house hiding. Kelsay says it was the officer’s first impression that there was a "victim with possible gunshot wounds." Kelsay says the officer radioed the information out for the protection of everyone in the early phase of the investigation.
Kelsay says dispatchers sent out the information to area law agencies that there appeared to be family members dead and possible gunshot wounds. He says the University of Iowa received that information. "Acting on that limited information, a decision was made by the University to release that as a Hawk alert," Kelsay explains,"and they released the information that they have, limited as it was."
Kelsay says officers later determined a gun was not involved. Kelsay says as officers continued to investigate, they determined that the injuries to the victims "were probably not gunshot wounds, but were actually trauma injuries of a different nature." Kelsay says the gunshot information had already gone out by that time. Kelsay is not sure when the autopsies might be completed.
Steven Sueppel had been the vice president and controller at Hills Bank and Trust in the Iowa City area before being arrested and charged with one count of embezzlement of bank funds and six counts of money laundering to conceal that he’d embezzled nearly 560-thousand dollars. He was scheduled to go to trial on April 21st.
The parents of the Sueppels released a statement saying that relatives saw "nothing unusual" while spending time with the family over the Easter weekend.