Friends and family mourned three people found dead of gunshot wounds at a Superior home Wednesday afternoon in what police are calling a probable homicide-suicide.
The home's occupants were Matthew Magdzas, who recently returned from a military deployment overseas, April Oles and their 13-month-old daughter, Lila Jean, according to public records and numerous friends and relatives.
Oles was pregnant and expecting a child "any day now," said her close friend, Angel Johnson, who was mourning her loss.
"It's hard losing someone close," she said.
Superior police officers were dispatched to 2011 N. 22nd St. about 12:36 p.m. Wednesday, police Capt. Chad La Lor said. The officers arrived to find three people who had died in the same area of the house and La Lor confirmed a weapon was found at the scene.
He declined to name the three people who died but said one was a 26-year-old female, one a 13-month-old female and the other a 23-year-old male -- ages that match those of Magdzas, Oles and their daughter.
Darrell Blaylock, who lives a block from the home, said he knew Magdzas and his family.
"He was a standup kid who was really proud to be an American," he said of Magdzas.
The front door of the Magdzas house had an American flag on one side of it and an Iraqi flag on the other.
Oles grew up in the Carlton area and graduated from Carlton High School in 2002, according to her friend and classmate, Molly Anton.
Fellow 2002 graduate Brandon Sell described Oles as a good person.
"She didn't like to be the center of attention," he said. "Everyone liked her and got along with her. She wasn't mean to anybody; if you needed something you could ask her."
Johnson said she has known Oles for 10 years and that the two were involved in cheerleading at Carlton High School. Oles had recently taken a job as an assistant cheer coach at Duluth East and was happy to be involved in it again, Johnson said.
Shawn Roed, director of student activities at Duluth East, said in a statement that she will be sadly missed.
"April's passion for working with young people was evident to everyone that came into contact with her and we were very proud to have her on staff at Duluth East," he said.
Oles also had graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in May with bachelor's degree in visual arts with a concentration in art therapy, according to the UWS website.
Oles and Magdzas met in the past few years, Johnson said. It was unclear if the two were married, but after Lila was born, Johnson said Oles was very excited about having another child -- a girl.
"Her baby was due any day now," she said. "She's such a family person ... so outgoing and dedicated to everyone she knows."
Johnson and Oles last spoke a few days ago and talked about Johnson visiting her once the baby was born.
"Everything was great," she said of their conversation. "Everything was normal."
Johnson, who moved to St. Paul several years ago, said she and Oles talked frequently even though they hadn't seen each other for about a year.
She said although she and Magdzas didn't know each other well, she didn't really care for him.
"You know how some people rub you the wrong way?" Johnson said. "But she's my best friend, you know?"
Volunteering to serve
Magdzas was featured in a 2006 Superior Daily Telegram story after he and his longtime friend, Matt Sosinski, volunteered to serve in Iraq in 2006. Magdzas had a simple explanation for why he decided to volunteer:
"I want to fight for my country," he said.
A native of El Centro, Calif., Magdzas, 23, graduated from Superior High School in 2005, according to the Telegram article.
He and Sosinski volunteered to serve in the Milwaukee-based 121st Field Artillery, Charlie Co. They were both combat engineers with the 724th Engineer Battalion, Bravo Co., of Superior.
Sosinski, who had known Magdzas since kindergarten, declined to comment on Wednesday.
On one social-networking site, Magdzas listed activities as "spending time with my beautiful family" and described his interests as family, cocker spaniels, fishing and swimming.
He also taught a personal firearm self-defense course for a Rice Lake, Wis.-based company called Better Defense. His profile with that company noted that he had been awarded a combat action badge and Purple Heart after his service in Iraq, was certified as a combat life-saver and certified in Red Cross CPR. He also was promotions officer for the Lake Superior Pointing Dog Club.
Blaylock said he spoke to Magdzas on Monday and that Magdzas told him about the circumstances leading to his Purple Heart.
"He explained that he was in a Humvee that got hit by a roadside bomb," Blaylock said. "He said he didn't have any shrapnel in him, but that he was hit in the head with a large rock."
Blaylock visited with the family in their home on Monday because Magdzas was interested in purchasing a truck from Blaylock.
"There didn't seem to be anything out of line," he said.
The Better Defense profile listed Magdzas' interests as outdoorsman, hunter, trapper and fisherman and said he had been shooting guns since before age 12.
Gary Bjergo, CEO of the company, said Magdzas, like all of the instructors, worked as an independent contractor. He declined to comment further.
La Lor said a search warrant was being obtained to search the entire Magdzas home. He said the officers on the scene backed out of the house after it became clear that the victims could not be helped, and called the medical examiner.
The human cost of the tragedy became clear when a distraught woman ran from the avenue toward the crime scene. La Lor intercepted her before she crossed the yellow police tape. As he held her, she screamed that a family member was inside. Two emergency personnel escorted her away from the home.
The last status update by Oles on her Facebook page reportedly was on Monday when she posted, "What an emotionally exhausting day." She also reportedly added "p.s. baby in two days."
News Tribune staff writer John Lundy and Superior Telegram staff writer Maria Lockwood contributed to this report.