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Motive not clear in Quebec family deaths in Ohio

Investigators in Ohio state refused to discuss a possible motive after interviewing a Quebec man charged on the weekend in the deaths of his wife and four children.

Investigators question man charged with killing wife, 4 children

Investigators in Ohio refused to discuss a possible motive after interviewing a Quebec man charged on the weekend in the deaths of his wife and four children.

Authorities confirmed they found a gas canister on the second storey of the man's burned home in Mason, Ohio, outside Cincinnati, and that other evidence had been collected. It is being tested at a state forensic laboratory, they said at a press conference Monday afternoon.

"Investigators will be looking at several different angles, including family history and the fire scene, but it's not necessarily a quickly completed type of investigation and it's important to be thorough and methodical," said Shane Cartmill of the Ohio State Fire Marshal's office.

He said lab results could arrive sooner than the 10 to 12 days it normally takes to do testing due to the extraordinary nature of the case.

Investigators said they have spoken to Michel Veillette, 34, at least twice at the University Hospital in Cincinnati, where he is in stable condition and being treated for stab wounds, said Mason police chief Ronald Ferrell.

One interview lasted over an hour, he said.

Veillette is under 24-hour police guard after he was arrested and charged with four counts of aggravated murder, one count of murder and one count of arson following Friday's deadly fire.

Prosecutors on Monday said he will be arraigned on those charges as soon as he is released from hospital.

The father of four, originally from Laval, Que., was found outside his family's burning home on Friday after a 911 call was made around 10 p.m. about a fire in the house.

Inside, authorities found the bodies of his wife, Nadya Ferrari-Veillette, and the couple's 4-year-old son, Vincent.

Ferrari-Veillette died from stab wounds, said coroner Russell Uptegrove. The Hamilton County Coroner's office later said Vincent died of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by smoke inhalation.

The couple's three other children — Marguerite, 8, and twins Jacob and Mia, 3, died in hospital.

The causes of their deaths will be released this week, but there were no stab marks on their bodies, Uptegrove said.

Police believe Veillette jumped out of a second-storey window.

He'll likely be released from hospital this week, said Warren County prosecutor Rachel Hutzel at a press conference on Monday.

Deaths are unfathomable, Quebec relatives say

The family's relatives in Quebec are doing their best to digest the shocking news.

In an interview with Montreal newspaper La Presse, Veillette's mother, Louise Dufault, said she spent a happy Christmas holiday with her son, his wife and children.

"He was a hard-working guy and a good father to his family," the Saint-Lin-Laurentides resident said in a French interview with the newspaper on the weekend.

Veillette's brother Éric is travelling to Ohio to be with his brother, Dufault said.

Ferrari-Veillette was a volunteer at her children's school and worked part-time as a waitress, La Presse reported.

The Veillettes grew up in Ahuntsic, a borough in northwest Montreal. Michel moved to the U.S. in 1997 to work as a computer engineer, according to his mother. 

Dufault told La Presse he travelled frequently from coast to coast for his work.

Affluent Ohio neighbourhood shaken by deaths

Neighbours and friends dropped off flowers, cards and notes in front of the Ferrari-Veillette family's home on Brackenview Court Street in Mason as people tried to make sense of what happened.

Eight-year-old Aubrey Atkins was in tears as she spoke about her friend Marguerite, who was in her class.

"She just liked everybody, she played with everybody," she told television reporters stationed in front of the home.

Aubrey's mother, Tina, was visibly shaken.

"Marguerite was a happy little girl. Very happy. She was very full of life. She was a great girl, and Aubrey loved her very much," she said.

At the local restaurant where Ferrari-Veillette worked part-time, her colleagues were in shock.

"She was part of our family," said Brenda O'Neill. "He has taken that away."

Prosecutors consider death penalty

It could take weeks for prosecutors to decide if they will seek the death penalty in the case because lawyers still need to review the facts, Hutzel said.

"Trust me, if it's a death penalty case, if it qualifies as a death penalty case, I will ask for an indictment for the death penalty," she said after a press conference on Monday.

Veillette faces five charges of murder and a single count of arson, which could change once the case is brought in front of a grand jury, Hutzel said.

Ohio law allows the death penalty only in certain types of premeditated murder, including the killing of a child under age 13, she said.

Veillette's Canadian citizenship will not affect prosecutors' decision, she said.

Traditionally, Ottawa intervenes when a Canadian citizen is given the death penalty.

However, the Conservative government recently said it will no longer intervene when democratic countries are involved.

With files from the Canadian Press