Unsealed court documents pertaining to an alleged quadruple murder-suicide in Sheffield, Massachusetts reveal grim details about the crime.
On March 13th, tragedy stunned the normally idyllic Southern Berkshire community of around 3,000.
“Five individuals, including three young children, died Wednesday morning in a home that burned at 1343 Home Road in Sheffield. Among the deceased were Luke Karpinski and his wife Justine Wilbur, both 41, who lived in the home with their 3-year-old and 7-year-old twins," said Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington.
At a press conference the next day, the news got worse.
“We are investigating this matter as a murder-suicide," said the DA. "At this time, the evidence indicates that Luke Karpinski was the assailant.”
In the months since, questions have swirled about what happened. Now, unsealed documents from the multi-agency investigation have shed some light on the unthinkable.
It starts with the blood. An evidence submission form sent to a state forensic evidence group describes swabs of “red-brown stains” taken from the Karpinski-Wilbur’s garage floor, laundry room floor and door, and across the cushions, blankets, and carpet of the family playroom.
State Police Sergeant Stephen Jones’ account of what he found inside the burning home at 1343 Home Road explains the prolific nature of the bloodshed.
Wilbur’s was the first body found in the house. Her throat was slit, and another report indicates that there was evidence of trauma to the back of her head the size of a half dollar, covered with matted blood. Sergeant Jones describes the laceration as deep, “[extending] well beyond Justine Wilbur’s larynx/windpipe, which was visible and severed.” His report says that the cut was “consistent with someone slicing Justine Wilbur’s throat in the most violent and aggressive manner possible.” The report then again asserts in bolded italics: “Note that the degree of violence associated with this laceration cannot be overstated.”
Monterey Fire Chief Shawn Tryon and some of his firefighters found the children. Zoe, Alex, and Marek Karpinski were found dead and “badly damaged by fire” in the master bedroom on the second floor. Another Monterey firefighter – Cody Funk – described them as “mostly bones and flesh,” and appeared “huddled together.” Funk suggests in his interview that the door to the master bedroom may have been blocked with furniture from the outside.
Tryon, in an interview with a state trooper, said that he felt something strange upon discovering the bodies:
“The first body he witnessed appeared to be almost staged. The child was lying on the floor perfectly straight, as if someone had placed it in its final resting position.”
Also on the second floor were a pair of 20-pound propane tanks, thought to have been placed by Karpinski to best facilitate the immolation of the home following the alleged murders. In a closet, firefighters found two dead dogs.
A search inventory report from the Massachusetts State Police Berkshire Detective Unit details a number of knives found inside the home: a butcher knife with a melted handle in the utility room, a hunting knife with an orange handle in a jacket hanging in the garage, and most tellingly, a metal knife found immediately to the left of Luke Karpinski’s body. He was found in the third floor loft of the house – accessible only by ladder – by Monterey Fire Fighter Jeff Spratt, lying alone in a bed above the carnage below. Also found next to Karpinski were “two glass bottles consistent with alcohol bottles” and a plastic lighter.
The report notes a conversation with Wilbur’s mother – Teresa Wilbur – who told a state trooper that there were no past or present domestic issues between her daughter and Karpinski. Neighbors interviewed for the report said they saw no signs of discord in the family, who they said had lived in the home for around two years. On March 12th, in the last hours of her life, they saw Wilbur return to the home around 7 p.m. in her hatchback. A friend of Wilbur’s describes Karpinski as being “a very quiet man” with a “dry sense of humor,” and said she found it “very hard to get a good read on him.” The same friend said that while Wilbur had expressed past issues with Karpinski, there was no indication that the couple was in turmoil. Another neighbor claimed to have heard arguments between the two “on a monthly basis,” including the sound of a woman yelling coming out of the house on March 11th.
DA Harrington describes the case as ongoing, citing the sheer amount of forensic evidence the various agencies must process.
“This is a really important investigation," she told WAMC. "We’re not going to be prosecuting somebody, but this is our opportunity to speak for the victims and we’re their voice.”