CROSS RIVER, N.Y.—Investigators have uncovered the weapons, a 12-gauge shotgun and a rolling pin used as a tool to bludgeon. They have established a timeline of events. They have described the crime scene in their reports and to reporters.
But they may never know what really happened inside 2 Lambert Ridge Road.
Police discovered four lifeless bodies inside the stately gray three-story home in Cross River, N.Y. Tuesday afternoon: Amy and Samuel Friedlander and their two children, Molly, 10, and Gregory, 8, both students at Lewisboro Elementary School.
Samuel Friedlander had taken that 12-gauge shotgun, shot each of his children in their beds and bludgeoned his wife to death. Then he went down into the basement and shot himself, police said.
Even seasoned state police investigators were unprepared for what they found inside.
State police Maj. Michael Kopy, who has been in law enforcement for a quarter century, said this about the case: "There is no way to characterize it."
The couple were expected to be in divorce court Thursday.
Police were first alerted something was wrong when Amy Friedlander's business partner Debbie Bernstein called 911 Tuesday afternoon, around 3:40.
She had become worried that she hadn't heard from Amy, with whom she had started a tutoring and college preparatory business. She went over to the home off Route 35 and met a state police trooper there. The trooper went in first.
There was no question the couple's relationship was rocky. Their impending divorce was well-known to friends and family. But aside from the revelation by police on Wednesday that Samuel had begun acting differently in recent weeks there was no sense that acts of unspeakable violence were about to unfold.
State police said the only issue that drew their attention to Samuel Friedlander in the past was a 2006 domestic incident at the residence which stemmed from a fight over the kids. They described it as "minor."
Other possible stressors have emerged as police piece together what happened to the Friedlanders.
They were trying to sell the house they purchased in January 2002, asking $799,000. The couple was still living together but did not share a bedroom. A friend of Amy's who did not want to be identified said it was common knowledge that Amy wanted to get out of the house and was trying to get her husband out.
But there were plenty of signs of optimism as well.
In a June feature with Bedford-Katonah Patch, Amy Friedlander, 46, shared the story behind John Jay Prep, her business with Bernstein. Appearing equal parts cheerleader and necessary taskmaster, the sense was that Amy's satisfaction came not from her own success, but those of her students.
The friend also saw a spark of a brighter future for Amy, a "warm, bright person who was quick to laugh and poke fun at herself," she said.
"No matter how busy she was she found time to look after others," the friend said. "I knew her to be going through a rough time at home but she always asked about how I was—she had such great perspective, and shrugged off my concern about her by saying everyone had problems to deal with. She found time to volunteer at school. She coordinated enrichment programs for children. She was passionate about her work and looked forward to her business growing. She was fastidious about exercising and had many friends at the Saw Mill Club and at LES (Lewisboro Elementary School) and in the community."
The Friedlanders were married in 2000. The New York Times wedding announcement spotlights two successful individuals. Amy Friedlander graduated cum laude from Cornell University and held an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Sam Friedlander, 50, graduated from Skidmore College and received a law degree magna cum laude from Western New England College. At the time of the wedding announcement, he was an associate counsel of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners but had since started his own law firm in Bedford Hills.
More than a dozen state troopers responded to the incident Tuesday evening, combing through the home and property as neighbors looked on apprehensively.
In a note to all LES parents late Tuesday night, the district noted school will run at regular hours, but asked that children not be dropped off early. "Our staff requires adequate time to prepare and respond during this difficult time. Also, please know that social workers and psychologists will be available for students, staff and families," wrote Superintendent Paul Kreutzer.
Parents at the children's school struggled to make sense of the news and how to break it to their children Wednesday.
Many opted to drive their children to school.
Kreutzer and School Board president Mark Lipton greeted children and parents at the door. Parents were told their children would hear age-appropriate messages in class and additional counselors were available for the day. Kreutzer said there were many student absences reported and it would mean an additional day of working through counseling and the start of a long healing process.
Wednesday, at 10 a.m., a light drizzle had set in on Lambert Ridge Road. Just two state troopers remained in front. Caution tape that had sealed off the driveway had fallen, lying now in a puddle.
The front porch light was the only one on the street still left on.
Editor's Note: This story has been revised from its original version to reflect new developments and to make minor clarifications. One significant difference is that police originally believed that Sam Friedlander killed his wife with a broken off piece of furniture. They later realized it was a wooden rolling pin.