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Blows killed mother, children


IOWA CITY -- Sheryl Sueppel and her four children died from multiple blows to their heads and upper bodies, state medical examiners have determined.

The medical examiners' report says carbon monoxide poisoning did not contribute to the children's deaths, although Eleanor, 3, Seth, 8, Ethan, 10, and Mira -- who would have turned 6 Tuesday -- did have varying levels of oxygen in their blood, Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said.

That finding lends credence to a note Steven Sueppel left that said he first tried to asphyxiate himself and the children, Kelsay said. Police don't know if the children were rendered unconscious by the exhaust fumes.

"He didn't indicate that they were," Kelsay said of Sueppel's note, which has not been released.

The State Medical Examiner's Office declined to comment Wednesday, referring reporters to Iowa City police.

Iowa City police investigators observed the autopsies Tuesday, Kelsay said. Completed autopsy reports could take as long as two months, pending the results of toxicology screens.

Kelsay said examiners had determined Sheryl, 42, and her four children were murdered. He didn't know late Wednesday if examiners ruled Steven Sueppel's death a suicide, but said police are considering it as such.

Police say Steven Sueppel killed his family late Sunday night or Monday morning, and then crashed the family minivan into a concrete sign base on Interstate 80. An autopsy confirmed he died from blunt-force trauma injuries in the motor vehicle crash, police said.

Kelsay declined to release more information about injuries to the six people.

Police released the crime scene Wednesday morning but continued to conduct final interviews with people who may have information about the murders. Only after they've followed those leads will investigators write their reports and close the investigation, Kelsay said.

Although Sueppel didn't list one specific reason for the killings, he was distraught over charges he embezzled more than a half-million dollars from his former employer, Hills Bank and Trust, investigators said at a Tuesday news conference.

The funeral for all six family members will be Saturday at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 302 E. Jefferson St., Iowa City.

Online condolences poured in to the Lensing Funeral & Cremation service Web site Wednesday as friends and strangers mourned the loss of this well-known and well-liked family.

"God will pave your way to understanding of all this," signed Bob and Mary Gail Ulmer, of Boca Raton, Fla.

"You are in my thoughts and prayers," wrote a woman who signed her name Nancy McCallister. "This was a wonderful family, neighbor and classmates to both myself and my children. My sincerest sympathies."

Contact the writer: (319) 339-3157 or jennifer.hemmingsen@gazettecommunications.com

Services for Sueppels


Visitation, 3 p.m.; vigil service, 7:30 p.m., St. Mary's Catholic Church, Iowa City


Funeral Mass, 10 a.m., St. Mary's Catholic Church, Iowa City; burial follows at St. Joseph's Cemetery, Iowa City


Obituary information for Steven and Sheryl Sueppel and their four children, 4B

Eleanor Sueppel Age 3

Ethan Sueppel Age 10

Seth Sueppel Age 8

Sheryl Sueppel Age 42

Steven Sueppel Photo was taken at Christmas time 2007.

Mira Sueppel Age 5

Steven Sueppel Killed wife and children

2008 Mar 27