Neighbors remember family killed in Michigan

by: Holly Maynard Updated:

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MINT HILL, N.C. —

Police outside of Detroit are investigating the deaths of a family that used to live in Mint Hill.

On Monday night, former neighbors in Mint Hill welcomed an Eyewitness News crew to a vigil to remember the lives of the young family they described as sweet, close, and happy.

Michael and Linda Vanderlinden moved to Detroit from Mint Hill three years ago with their two young sons, but they remained close with Deidre Kelly and her family, who are still coming to grips with what happened.

"This story is so horrific and haunting that it kind of still haunts us I think in lots of ways," Kelly said.

Police said early Thursday morning, Michael Vanderlinden was driving the wrong way on an Indiana interstate without headlights on. He crashed head-on into another car. Both he and the other driver were killed instantly.

When police went to Vanderlinden's suburban Detroit home to tell his family, they found the bodies of Linda and their two sons, Julian and Matthew, energetic little boys Lauren and Stephanie Kelly used to babysit for.

"I can't believe they're gone. They were only 4 and 7. It's still hitting me now," said Lauren.

All three victims were found in their beds. Linda was strangled and stabbed, the two little boys stabbed also. Police believe Michael killed his family before using the car crash to commit suicide.

"They shouldn't have died," said Stephanie Kelly. "He shouldn't have taken his anger out on them."

Neighbors in Michigan say Michael was being treated for depression. One said, "He was depressed, he was emotional, he has tried to commit suicide before."

Linda called 911 last year after Michael had taken several sleeping pills, and police said a friend of Linda's came forward, saying that she was distraught about their marriage the day she died.

But when the family lived in Mint Hill, Kelly said they seemed happy. The families celebrated holidays together and saw each other frequently.

Kelly said Linda was a devoted mom and former teacher who loved staying home with her boys. She had a sweet, gentle personality and often took the boys to the park. Michael played soccer with them. Stephanie and Lauren Kelly took care of the boys so the couple could go on "date nights."

Deidre Kelly said, "I just never, never would have imagined that something like this would have happened."

Police went through Michael Vanderlinden's car after the crash to see if they could find a note or anything else that would help them get to the bottom of what happened, but they didn't find anything valuable. Both cars burst into flames after the collision.