New details emerged Monday about what led up to the tragic deaths of two young boys in St. Louis County over the weekend.
Late Saturday afternoon, St. Louis County Police issued an Amber Alert for two area children believed to have been abducted by their father.
Documents filed in Franklin County Circuit Court allege that Christopher Cadenbach, 43, was physically abusive and made multiple life-threatening statements before killing his sons and turning the gun on himself in Cliff Cave Park.
Washington Police were called Saturday morning to the home of Cadenbach’s estranged wife, who they said had obvious signs of physical abuse, including bruising on her eye, neck and throat.
She told police the two had consensual sex late Thursday night, despite an ex-parte order against him.
But that early Friday morning, as he was leaving her home, she told him she still wanted to proceed with their divorce.
That is the moment when she said Cadenbach immediately became upset and began threatening her life. She said she lost consciousness two times after he choked her.
And after she woke up the second time, she told police he said, “…you should be dead I was trying to kill you, you must have guardian angels you must be stronger than you ever thought.”
She said Cadenbach forced her to lay next to him in their children’s bed and that he would follow her everywhere in the house, including when she went to the restroom.
She told police he forced her to spend the entire day with him. She said he wanted to shock the entire community of Washington “…with a murder.”
Cadenbach and his estranged wife later spent Saturday with his two children, Ethan Cadenbach, 5, and Owen Cadenbach, 4, including a trip to Cadenbach's mother.
His mother contacted police after he began to act strangely. He talked about "not being taken alive", including references to "suicide by cop", as well as threatening violence against both of his children. Cadenbach cited to his mother he did not want to go back to prison and was believed to also be in possession of an assault rifle.
Franklin County had issued an active warrant for Domestic Violence in the First Degree prior to Saturday, set with a $100,000 bond.
Missouri Highway Patrol issued an AMBER Alert for Ethan and Owen Cadenbach around 6:30 p.m. Saturday. St. Louis County Police, along with Metro Air Support and other various law enforcement agencies were issued immediately to help in the search for the missing boys.
Cadenbach was reported as last being seen with his children in a neighborhood in Lemay in south St. Louis County in a 2006 Ford Focus.
Around 8 p.m., a St. Louis County Park Ranger spotted the Ford Focus unmanned in the parking lot of Cliff Cave County Park, and approached Cadenbach with the assistance of other officers. The park ranger called for assistance from St. Louis County Police and Metro Air Support. As officers arrived at the parking lot, gunfire was heard coming from inside the Ford Focus. Cadenbach exited the car with a gun in hand and proceeded to shoot himself in the head.
They said at the same time, a 10-year veteran of the force shot him.
Officers attended to the Ford Focus immediately afterwards, and found both Ethan and Owen Cadenbach wounded inside the car. Police administered CPR, and transported the children to an area hospital. Both children were later pronounced dead.
An autopsy revealed both children suffered only one gunshot wound.
Sunday, community members held a vigil in honor of both Ethan and Owen Cadenach.
“Just like any average four and five-year-old boys,” said Sarah Sartorius after a candlelight prayer service at St. Paul Catholic Church in Fenton.
Sartorius was their aunt. More than 100 people showed up for the prayer service organized by a group of mothers who know the Candenbach family.
“Enthusiastic and full of energy. Always fun-loving,” she said of the brothers.
Sartorious said what makes this unspeakable crime even harder to understand is the way the man police say killed them also seemed to love them.
“Their father was actually a really good father to them,” said Sartorius. “That's why we're having a really difficult hard time trying to figure out why he did this."
On Monday, the Washington School District notified students, staff and families of the boys’ tragic death through a letter via e-mail and social media.
Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said extra counselors would be on hand at West Elementary School and the early childhood education center.
She said the circumstances are beyond tragic and hard to comprehend for everyone in the community.
“For a superintendent, this is the worst news you could possibly get. I cannot comprehend it. I don’t think anybody can. I’m just deeply sorry about the circumstances,” she said.
VanLeer said the boys had not been in the district very long, but were loved by their instructors, teachers and classmates.
She anticipated that the district would honor their life through writing, artwork or some other expression, but said their focus was on grieving in the immediate future.
A GoFundMe page has been setup for funeral expenses for both Ethan and Owen Cadenbach. To help donate, click here.
Photos: Amber Alert issued for two children.