Authorities believe 41-year-old Micheal Nichols and 38-year-old Kennetha Purnell and their two children died Oct. 12 after moving into the rental house that day before the electricity was turned on.
Angela Davis tells The Times of Munster her cousin and husband were high school sweethearts in Chicago and moved to northwest Indiana a few years ago while 13-year-old Matthew Nichols and 11-year-old Morgan Nichols attended the Merrillville schools.
Purnell was assistant to Chicago State University's education college dean and her husband was a self-employed carpenter.
The family's funeral will be Monday at Holy Cathedral Church of God and Christ in Harvey, Ill.
It appears they were overcome by the carbon monoxide from a generator running in their garage. Their bodies were found by a relative on Wednesday in the family's home in Merrillville. A well-being check on the home was initiated by a concerned mother who had not heard from her daughter for at least two or three days.
"The gentleman, officer, came out and said that he had to contact his supervisor. Well, my daughter really felt like there was something serious," said Rosemary Purnell.
As family members gathered last week to remember better times on the South Side for the Nichols family, from where they'd moved, the neighbors they would have gotten to know searched for an explanation
"It was very upsetting because we wish we could have done more for them," said neighbor Janet Yaros.
The house was closed tight and the windows were shut, perfect conditions for carbon monoxide poisoning if a generator is puffing away in an attached garage
"They didn't have any venting," said Illinois Fire Marshall Larry Matkaitis. "There was no way for the carbon monoxide to escape. As a result, it just went into the house."
Back on the South Side, a mother confronted the reality of the days ahead.
"My iron fist is gone," Rosemary Purnell said. "She was one to let everyone know, make up your mind, do what you need to do to better yourself."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.