CARLSTADT, N.J. -- Police brought three Carlstadt children to safety over a backyard fence Wednesday night after their father shot and killed their mother on the front lawn of their home before killing himself.
The three children of Scott Sabia and his wife, Michele, fled the house "as the events were unfolding," Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal said.
A Daily Voice photo shows police lifting the couple's 9-year-old daughter over a backyard fence while also rescuing 14-year-old and 11-year-old sons
They also retrieved the body of Michele Sabia, a grade-school teacher in Rutherford, Grewal said.
"The scene was gruesome and what those kids saw was unfathomable," a source with direct knowledge of the incident told Daily Voice. "He shot her in the chest, then when she turned to run away, he shot her in the back of the head."
Sabia, 45, then ran inside and locked the corner house in the 500 block of Union Street, the prosecutor said.
A call of shots fired came in to Carlstadt police at 6:19 p.m., Grewal said.
Responding officers found 44-year-old Michele Sabia's body on the front lawn, he said. She was pronounced dead at the scene, he said.
Responders who included Carlstadt and Wood-Ridge police and Bergen County sheriff's officers secured the perimeter for the SWAT team. Responders also included HUMC paramedics and the Moonachie First Aid & Rescue Squad.
"Fearing the suspect may still be in the residence and armed with a weapon," members of the Bergen County Regional SWAT Team didn't immediately go in, Grewal said.
"Instead, they made numerous attempts to contact [Sabia] through a loud speaker, but the suspect did not respond," he said. "They ultimately deployed a chemical agent and used a robotic device equipped with a camera to ensure the residence was safe to enter."
Inside, they found Sabit dead of a single, apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound in the vestibule, he said.
"A 12-gauge shotgun was recovered next to the body," the prosecutor said.
Grewal praised the initial responding officers "who came to the scene, removed the children and brought them to safety. This horrible tragedy could have been far, far worse."
District officials in Rutherford made grief counselors available at Washington School in Rutherford, where Michele Sabia taught, for students, faculty, staff and parents on Thursday and Friday.The incident added to a string of area domestic killings this year.
On June 1, a 53-year-old Fair Lawn man shot his elderly parents dead, started a fire and turned the gun on himself .
In March, a 44-year-old Bergenfield man shot and killed his 36-year-old wife and then himself .
In late January, authorities charged a 45-year-old North Arlington man with beating his 47-year-old wife to death with a hammer .