Thursday night, the Berkshire County District Attorney said this week’s fire in Sheffield, Massachusetts is now being investigated as a quadruple murder-suicide.
One day after a mysterious structure fire revealed five bodies in a rural Berkshire home, DA Andrea Harrington addressed reporters at her downtown Pittsfield office.
“Five individuals, including three young children died Wednesday morning in a home that burned at 1343 Home Road in Sheffield," said Harrington. "Among the deceased were Luke Karpinski and his wife Justine Wilbur, both 41, who lived in the home with their three-year-old and seven-year-old twins.”
The DA’s office says the three-year-old was named Marek. The twins, Alex and Zoe. Karpinski and Wilbur were identified by authorities as both being attorneys. They bought the land where the house was built in 2016. The country road it sits on – Home Road – runs east of Route 7 in the southwestern corner of the Berkshires.
“An initial search of the residence revealed the presence of one deceased individual," said Harrington. "Four deceased individuals were later found.”
Wilbur was found on the first floor of the home. Karpinski and the children were found upstairs.
“We are investigating this matter as a murder-suicide," said the DA. "At this time, the evidence indicates that Luke Karpinski was the assailant.”
Harrington described the investigation as “comprehensive” and “ongoing.”
“Members of the state police detective unit assigned to the District Attorney’s office and the Office of the State Fire Marshal are still combing through the scene and searching for evidence,” she told reporters.
Calling the scene “secure,” the DA said there is no reason to believe the public is at risk.
“Yesterday [Wednesday], authorities transported the bodies from the home to Boston so that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner could perform autopsies," she said. "The causes of death are not available at this time.”
Harrington detailed the scope of the investigation.
“Also responding to the fire on Wednesday was the Massachusetts State Police Crime Scene Services Section, the forensic scientists assigned to the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory, the Massachusetts State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction section, Sheffield and Great Barrington police, and fire department crews from Sheffield, Great Barrington, Monterey, Egremont, Richmond, New Marlborough, Canaan, Connecticut, and Norfolk, Connecticut,” she said.
Wilbur had worked for the Albany law firm Hoffman Warnick since 2017. Thursday, the firm issued a press release that praised her as a “domestically and internationally” recognized patent expert. Calling her “a devoted mother,” the firm said Wilbur had “infectious spirit and energy” and was “smart, knowledgeable, dedicated and hardworking.”
Sheffield – a town of about 3,000 – is about 50 miles southeast of Albany.
The superintendent of schools for the Southern Berkshire Regional School District sent a message to families acknowledging that the district had “lost members of our school community,” and offered counseling and support.
Sheffield’s clergy are doing the same.
“The solution is to gather with people who you love and who care for you and to tell the story," said Pastor Erik Karas of Christ Trinity Church. "The worst thing is to isolate yourself and just stew on the horror.”
Karas says he and Reverend Jill Graham of Old Parish Church are planning a community gathering to give residents an opportunity to grieve.
“We are a tight knit community, and healing happens over a meal – regardless of where you’re from, or what faith background you have, or if you have no faith background at all,” he told WAMC.
The event – described as an interfaith time of remembrance and prayer – is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday at the First Congregational Church in Sheffield. It’s followed by a community potluck meal at 5:30.