NAVARRE — An apparent murder-suicide that occurred in Elmore County, Alabama involved a former local family.
According to a press release from Elmore County Sheriff's Office, deputies responded to a call of shots fired around 5 p.m. on July 7 at the home of Charlene and Robert Orsi in Wetumpka, Alabama.
Before they were living in Alabama, the Orsi family was known in the Navarre community. Charlene Orsi was a third-grade teacher at Holley-Navarre Intermediate School from August of 2014 to October of 2015 and Robert was Chief Master Sgt. of Special Operations Medical Group at Hurlburt Field.
When deputies arrived at the home in the Redland community, it was engulfed in flames. Charlene Orsi was found in the carport with a fatal gunshot wound. The Orsi's four daughters were also at the home. Two of the 12-year-old triplets, Catherine and Patricia, suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin said Monday morning that the two were in stable condition. One may need additional surgery. Cadence, the third triplet, was found dead in one of the bedrooms. The couple's oldest daughter, 13-year-old Adrianna, was able to flee to a neighbor's home.
Franklin said when deputies arrived at the home, two of the triplets were able to flee as Robert was pouring gasoline around the home.
"When the dad was distributing gasoline throughout the house and he went to an adjoining room, two of the girls were able to make it to the door where there were greeted by a deputy who had just arrived," Franklin said. "He immediately took them across the street and told them to wait in the yard. He ran immediately back to the house trying to render aid to the mother, who was dead on arrival.
"He knew he had an active shooter and he tried as best as he could to make it into the house but there was so much smoke and fire that he was having a hard time making his way through the house."
Franklin said deputies later found out that the father had gone to the far end of the home and had taken his own life. When deputies recovered Robert's body they found a "large caliber handgun" near the body.
"We believe that's the gun he used to commit suicide," he said.
One of the "bizarre" parts of the case, Franklin pointed out, is that Charlene's parents had just moved to the Montgomery area — about 15 minutes away from Wetumpka — from New York. Most of their belongings are still in a moving truck. They've been able to see their three surviving granddaughters.
Franklin said the shooting is under investigation and they're waiting for forensics results to verify "what we feel like we know."
According to The Wetumpka Herald, a newspaper in Elmore County, Charlene filed for divorce on June 28 seeking sole custody of the couple's four children. On July 2, Robert's attorney filed an answer to the divorce petition denying that the two had "complete incompatibility of temperament" and that they could no longer live together as husband and wife. The couple would have been married 24 years in August.
"From what we understand they were going through a divorce and the husband was upset ... one of the factors that is going to be shown is that the dad, from time to time, used a controlled substance," Franklin said.
Charlene was a third-grade teacher at Redland Elementary School, a K through sixth school. The triplets had just graduated from the school, Franklin said.
According to Wetumpka Herald Managing Editor David Granger, Redland Elementary had counselors available to speak to students.
"It hit this community pretty hard," Granger said.
The Stonegate community where the Orsis lived is a "very nice, upscale community," Franklin said. The Sheriff's Office doen't have records of any previous domestic violence cases before Saturday.
The Navarre community is mourning the loss of Charlene and the deceased daughter. The Orsi family lived in the Navarre area until moving to Alabama last summer, said Brandy Foley, a mom of one of Charlene's former students.
"They were an amazing family all around," said Foley. "And Charlene was all about her girls."
Foley's 13-year-old son Mathias was a close friend of the triplets. Foley said when she read the news on Facebook she braced herself to tell her son.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do as a parent," she said. "I can't make it better. I can just sit with him and cry."
A local athletic coach, Kyle McNabb has planned a memorial for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Navarre Park and a GoFundMe page has raised more than $20,000 for the three surviving Orsi daughters.
"A lot of people are affected by this," McNabb said. "I wanted to set a time for people to come together."
You can donate to the GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/8ryq5-loving-the-orsis.