Before killing himself, Eric Widger Sr. fatally shot his spouse, Melisa Widger, and his daughter, Nichol “Nikki” Widger, who had special needs
Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, say a 45-year-old father and husband killed his wife and their daughter before turning his gun on himself — leaving all three bodies to be found on Easter Sunday.
Before his suicide, Eric Widger Sr. fatally shot his 42-year-old spouse, Melisa Widger, and his 20-year-old daughter, Nichol “Nikki” Widger, who had special needs, according to Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Roebuck.
The Widgers’ 18-year-old son was shot twice but survived.
Hours before the shooting, authorities say Eric posted quotes from the Bible, old photos of his family and a message — “I need my wife, daughter and son” — on his Facebook page.
Roebuck tells PEOPLE the couple had been having marital issues and Melisa and her daughter moved out of the family’s rural home in Turley, Oklahoma, two months earlier.
“Typically Tulsa County gets two or three homicides a year, so this was a pretty big case for us,” says Roebuck. “We called in all of our detectives.”
The altercation appears to have begun earlier on Easter Sunday, Roebuck says, when the couple’s son called his mother because Eric was “having a bad day” and asked her to come talk to him.
Melisa and her daughter went back to the family’s home around 9 p.m. Roebuck says Nikki went to watch TV with her brother’s girlfriend and Melisa was talking to Eric when an argument erupted between them and she said she wanted a divorce.
“At one point he grabs the gun and shoots his entire family,” Roebuck says. “It is really, really sad.”
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The scene outside the home of Eric Widger Sr. in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after a murder-suicide there last weekend
Eric shot his son in the wrist and leg but the teen was able to flee to a neighbor’s house three blocks away and call 911, according to Roebuck. The son’s girlfriend also escaped unscathed.
“He allowed her to leave uninjured,” Roebuck says of Eric. “When the shooting is occurring, she had to walk by [him] as she is leaving the house. Was she just not a target? I don’t know.”
After the shooting, Eric called a male relative and confessed to killing his wife and daughter and said he was about to kill himself.
Despite a 911 call from that relative, responding officers arrived at the Widger home to find “all three were dead,” Roebuck says.
She says police found “unusual writing on the wall” inside the house.
Family members told police that Eric had mental health issues and had been depressed, but he had no prior arrests or history of domestic violence, Roebuck says. It is unclear what prompted Melisa and her daughter to move out months earlier.
“This is what makes this so hard to understand,” Roebuck says. “At least we were able to give the family the answers as to what happened, even if we don’t understand why it happened. It is hard to understand how any human being could kill their spouse and their own child. I don’t know if we can fully understand what goes on in someone’s mind when they do something like that.”
In a further — morbid — twist, the day after the shooting, two burglars broke into the family home in an attempt to steal Eric’s cache of weapons.
“There were dozens of weapons in the house,” Roebuck says. “We arrested one of them at the scene and the other one wouldn’t come out, so we had a three-hour standoff with the burglary suspect. We had to send the SWAT team in. We had to shoot pepper balls on the house.”
“Our heart goes out to the son,” Roebuck tells PEOPLE. “He lost his mother and sister. His whole family is gone and his home is a crime scene.”