SALEM, Ore. — Two little girls, not yet old enough for kindergarten, were shot to death. Their infant sister was found asphyxiated.

All were discovered in a burning house with their 26-year-old mother, also a victim of a gunshot wound.

Police on Wednesday began releasing details of what they say was a murder-suicide at the Salem home on Tuesday.

Authorities said the children's father was found dead in a car 80 miles to the south. He is considered a person of interest in the slayings but his name was not released.

Firefighters who entered the burning home discovered the bodies of infant Sefi Lazukin, 1-year-old Zoe Lazukin, 3-year-old Angelica Lazukin and the children's mother, Natalya Lazukin.

They were an "absolutely wonderful family" with a close group of friends and strong relationships with extended family in Salem, said Peter Ignatovich, the Slavic Christian Church administrator who said he knew them well. They were at church most Sundays, he said.

He was skeptical the incident was a murder-suicide, noting that the police have not said conclusively that the father killed his family or himself.

"It was really disturbing to watch the news portray this monstrous kind of event," Ignatovich said. "I would not see him do it in any way. He loved his kids, loved his wife."

Authorities have not said if a weapon was discovered in the house they believe was intentionally set on fire.

Salem, the state capital, is about 50 miles south of Portland.

Clara King, who lives in an apartment about 50 yards from the home that burned, said she was awake in the middle of the night and heard a woman screaming, "like she was being hurt."

"I thought it was the neighbor lady having a party or something," King said. "I went out there to say something, but nobody was there."

Some residents of the working-class neighborhood say it is a rough area. It's not unusual to hear screams or fights in the middle of the night, King said.

The family was quiet and kept to themselves, said Jose Quiroz, who lives across the street. The father would frequently play with the children in the yard, where the kids splashed in a pool last summer, Quiroz said.

There were no outward signs of conflict between the couple, he said.

"It's unbelievable that someone could hurt their own kids," Quiroz said.

Another person found on a street a quarter mile north of the house was identified as 21-year-old Devin Matlock of Salem. He died of blunt force trauma, the result of two blows to the head, authorities said.

Matlock's death was being treated separately from the murder-suicide investigation, Salem police Lt. Dave Okada said.

Matlock was at a friend's house playing video games the night he died and left on foot about 2 a.m., said his friend Matt Wujcik.

Wujcik said Matlock usually avoided dark streets like the one where his body was found.

"It hasn't hit me all the way that I'm not going to see him," Wujcik said.

Matlock's sister said the family is in disbelief.

"Anybody who met him, they instantly liked him," said Amanda Matlock. "He's just going to be very, very missed."

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  • Investigators search a car in the front yard of a home where the bodies of a woman and three children were discovered early Tuesday, May 22, 2012, in Salem, Ore. Police in northwest Oregon say a mother and her three children were found dead in burned house, and the children's father was found dead later in a car in what they believe to be a murder-suicide. Police say the bodies of the woman and children were discovered early Tuesday in a Salem home that burned, while the father was found dead in a vehicle about 75 miles away. The victims weren't immediately identified. Police say they don't have other details about the parents' relationship. Salem is about 50 miles south of Portland. The man's body was found at Cottage Grove, 75 miles south of Salem along Interstate 5. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

  • Investigators search in the front yard of a home where the bodies of the woman and children were discovered early Tuesday, May 22, 2012, in Salem, Ore. Police in northwest Oregon say a mother and her three children were found dead in burned house, and the children's father was found dead later in a car in what they believe to be a murder-suicide. Police say the bodies of the woman and children were discovered early Tuesday in a Salem home that burned, while the father was found dead in a vehicle about 75 miles away. The victims weren't immediately identified. Police say they don't have other details about the parents' relationship. Salem is about 50 miles south of Portland. The man's body was found at Cottage Grove, 75 miles south of Salem along Interstate 5. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

  • A investigator looks out the front door of a home where the bodies of a woman and children were discovered early Tuesday, May 22, 2012, in Salem, Ore. Police in northwest Oregon say a mother and her three children were found dead in burned house, and the children's father was found dead later in a car in what they believe to be a murder-suicide. Police say the bodies of the woman and children were discovered early Tuesday in a Salem home that burned, while the father was found dead in a vehicle about 75 miles away. The victims weren't immediately identified. Police say they don't have other details about the parents' relationship. Salem is about 50 miles south of Portland. The man's body was found at Cottage Grove, 75 miles south of Salem along Interstate 5. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

  • A Investigator carries a bucket from a home where the bodies of a woman and three children were discovered early Tuesday, May 22, 2012, in Salem, Ore. Police in northwest Oregon say a mother and her three children were found dead in burned house, and the children's father was found dead later in a car in what they believe to be a murder-suicide. Police say the bodies of the woman and children were discovered early Tuesday in a Salem home that burned, while the father was found dead in a vehicle about 75 miles away. The victims weren't immediately identified. Police say they don't have other details about the parents' relationship. Salem is about 50 miles south of Portland. The man's body was found at Cottage Grove, 75 miles south of Salem along Interstate 5. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

  • An investigator looks out of a window during a search of a home where the bodies of a woman and three children were discovered early Tuesday, May 22, 2012, in Salem, Ore. The children's father was found dead later in a car, all victims of what police said appeared to be a murder-suicide. The woman and children were discovered early Tuesday when Salem firefighters went to a house on fire in a working-class neighborhood of old homes, small apartment complexes and mature trees. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

  • An investigator walks pass police tape at the front door of a home where the bodies of a woman and three children were discovered early Tuesday, May 22, 2012, in Salem, Ore. The children's father was found dead later in a car, all victims of what police said appeared to be a murder-suicide. The woman and children were discovered early Tuesday when Salem firefighters went to a house on fire in a working-class neighborhood of old homes, small apartment complexes and mature trees. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

  • In this May 22, 2012, photo shows an investigator peering through a shattered window during a search of a home where the bodies of a woman and three children were discovered, in Salem, Ore. Police were investigating the deaths of three Oregon children and their parents as an apparent murder-suicide Wednesday after authorities found the bodies of the children and their mother at a burned home and then that of their father in a car hours later. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

  • In this May 22, 2012, photo shows the home where the bodies a woman and three children were discovered, in Salem, Ore. Police were investigating the deaths of three Oregon children and their parents as an apparent murder-suicide Wednesday after authorities found the bodies of the children and their mother at a burned home and then that of their father in a car hours later. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

  • A vigil was held in front of the home of the Salem murder, suicide victims Wednesday night May 23, 2012. Nikolay Lazukin, 27, his wife, Natalya Lazukin, 26, and , two of their three daughters, Angelica, 3, center, and Zoe, 1. (AP Photo/Ross William Hamilton, The Oregonian)

  • A photo of Nikolay Lazukin, 27, his wife, Natalya Lazukin, 26, and , two of their three daughters, Angelica, 3, center, and Zoe, 1 are seen at a vigil held for the Salem murder, suicide victims Wednesday night May 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Ross William Hamilton, The Oregonian)

  • A vigil is held in front of the home of the Salem murder, suicide victims Wednesday night May 23, 2012. Nikolay Lazukin, 27, his wife, Natalya Lazukin, 26, and , two of their three daughters, Angelica, 3, center, and Zoe, 1. Peter Ignatovich with the Slavic Christian Church of Salem, left, thanks some of the gathered crowd in front of the home of the Lazukin family. (AP Photo/Ross William Hamilton, The Oregonian)

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