Babysitters commit suicide

Relates to:
Date: 2004-04-22

The Associated Press

SOUTHGATE, Mich. - A couple committed suicide after a 6-month-old boy in their care was shaken to death, police say.

Tyler Vanpopering died Wednesday at the University of Michigan Hospital, police said.

His baby sitters were Carissa Columbus, 25, and Leonard Columbus, 35. They disappeared after his death. On Saturday, police broke into their Southgate home and found them dead in the garage of carbon monoxide poisoning.

"No one here would ever hurt Sara's kids. Please make sure our dogs are taken care of," said a suicide note signed by Carissa Columbus. Sara Vanpopering is Tyler's mother.

"It appears, at this time that this is a tragic case of a homicide followed by a double suicide when the suspects were confronted with the prospect of being charged," said Southgate police Chief Larry Hall. "This is a tragedy beyond belief."

Hall said the couple baby-sat for Tyler and his 18-month-old sister McKenzie over the Easter holiday.

Sara Vanpopering, 19, told the Detroit Free Press on Monday that said she had been planning to let the couple adopt her children.

"I was unable to take care of them at the time," said Vanpopering, who dropped out of Lincoln Park High School in 2002. "I couldn't find a job."

Vanpopering said she wanted to "take a break" from the kids and give the couple a chance to get accustomed to them.

The couple brought Tyler to Wynadotte Hospital on Easter evening, saying he had had a seizure. He was airlifted to the University of Michigan Hospital, where he died three days later.

Neither Columbus had a police record, Hall said. He said that neighbors said the two were devoted to their dogs and were generally pleasant.

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