Four Dead In “Apparent Murder-Suicide,” Fire

John and Janice Conta lived in the home for more than 30 years and were longtime parishioners at St. Linus Catholic Church

Authorities are calling the Wednesday gunshot deaths of four members of a family in the south Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn the result of an apparent murder-suicide.

Emergency crews responded to a fire at a home in the 9800 block of 51st Avenue at about 5 a.m.

"We encountered a vehicle in the garage and noises coming from the vehicle. At that time we approached the vehicle and opened the door, and observed an adult male in the driver's seat take his own life with a shot gun," Oak Lawn Police Chief Michael Murray said.

Officials said John Conta Sr.'s body was found inside the hallway of the home. The body of his slain wife, Janice Conta, was found in the first-floor bedroom. Their 5-year-old grandson, Matthew Meier, was found dead in the basement.

John and Janice Conta lived in the residence for more than 30 years, and their 36-year-old son, John Conta Jr., who's believed to have committed the shootings, lived at the home with them.

"They really were fantastic people, fantastic neighbors, do anything for us, we'd help them out and stuff. They're going to be really missed around the neighborhood," neighbor Tom Repenty said. "The son was great, too. We'd always see him outside, mowing the lawn, we'd chit-chat. He was a mathematician, really smart kid, so it's just a tragedy."

Neighbors say the couple had a birthday party for their 5-year-old grandson Tuesday night, but the child's mother left and let him spend the night.

NBC Chicago has learned that the couple were longtime parishioners at St. Linus Catholic Church. Church officials described them as a "faith-filled couple that will be sorely missed."

The roof and floor of the home collapsed in the blaze, which began at about 5 a.m., and a crane had to be used to lift the rubble.

"They were very, very nice people," said  Nancy Melvin, who described their deaths as "very tragic."

Melvin said the husband was retired from AT&T. The couple had another grown son, Melvin said.

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