Family, friends mourn dead brothers

March 30, 2009 8:41:38 PM PDT
Two brothers who had been the subject of an Amber Alert have been found dead. Police say their father killed them, then himself. VIDEO: Family, friends mourn dead brothers

Nine-year-old Duncan and 7-year-old Jack were the focus of an Amber Alert issued earlier this month. The three-week-old search ended in tragedy about 100 miles south of Chicago.

Michael Connolly, 40, failed to return the boys to their mother - his ex-wife - on Sunday, March 8. Initially, investigators thought Connolly might be in the Chicago area where his relatives live in southwest suburban Oak Lawn.

But authorities say they found bodies matching the descriptions of the two missing Leroy, Illinois, brothers and cancelled the Amber Alert.

Authorities say the children's bodies were found Sunday inside a car registered to Michael Connolly. Police happened upon the 1991 Dodge Dynasty after receiving a call about a suspicious vehicle in a secluded area. At around 6 p.m. Sunday, investigators examined the vehicle and found two deceased boys in the back seat area. The body of a man matching Michael Connolly's description was found about 60 feet west of the car. Autopsies have been scheduled.

The sheriff has not said if there were any obvious signs of trauma or if a weapon was recovered.

On the day that the boys disappeared, there was a restraining order in place against Michael Connolly because authorities say he continued to harass his ex-wife. The two had divorced in 2007 after 13 years of marriage.

On Monday night, signs of grief could be seen in two Illinois communities where the boys once lived.

The brothers had been missing since March 8 when their father failed to return them following a court-ordered visit.

The mother says the justice system failed her. She says it failed her because she tried to warn the judge that with unsupervised visits, something like this could happen.

But the judge did grant those visits with the boys' father, Michael Connolly.

Two towns -- one near Chicago, one downstate -- are overcome with emotion.

Children grieved children on Monday night in Algonquin, where Duncan and Jack Connolly lived until their parents got divorced.

"Our hearts are broken for Amy and the kids. It's punished everybody in the neighborhood. We're just so sad," said Jim Jerardi, neighbor.

Downstate in LeRoy, where their mother moved them, there were similar signs of grief at what was called "a coming together for Duncan and Jack."

"I said they're dead aren't they? And he said yes," said, Bernice Lemaich, the suspect's grandmother.

Lemaich, 98, says she learned early Monday morning what her family had dreaded for weeks -- that the brothers, missing since March 8, were indeed dead.

"Emotions were high and the desire was strong, all in hopes of bringing Jack and Duncan home to their mom, Amy," said Mike Emery, McLean County Sheriff's Department.

"It's so shocking, we're in such a state of shock," said Joyce Connolly, the suspect's aunt.

Connolly's family said on Monday night that they agree with Amy Lichetenberg, the boys' mother, who released a statement through a friend saying that the justice system failed her.

"My heart is broken. There are no words to express my pain. No parent should ever have to bury their babies," said Brandi Tuley, spokesperson for Lichetenberg.

"I think he just went berzerk. I think for the last two years he's just not been there mentally," said Joyce Connolly.

Connolly, aunt of Michael Connolly, says her opinion is the judge did make a mistake in allowing unsupervised visits.

Investigators called this case a murder-suicide on Monday, but there was much more they did not reveal, including how the boys were killed.