Three years after losing his youngest son to cancer, a father who served as a missionary with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was found fatally shot at his Maryland home along with his wife and their three children Friday in what police are investigating as an apparent murder-suicide.
Cecil County police identified the father as Marcus Edward Milligan, 39, and his wife as Tara Devina Ricker Milligan, 37. The couple’s daughters, Teresa Milligan, 14, Nora Milligan, 11, and their 8-year-old son, Finn Milligan, were also identified.
"This is a tragic and terrible day for our county and our community," Sheriff Scott Adams noted at a press conference Friday, WBAL-TV11 reported. "Any time you have a loss to these levels — any loss is terrible, but a loss of this level, which is not a common thing, it's certainly not a common thing here in Cecil County — it's tragic and terrible and takes a long time for people to process."
Police received a call about the shootings near Elk Mills Road shortly after 9:15 a.m. by a man who said that the children and a woman were fatally shot, The Daily Voice reported.
The sheriff’s office said the man hung up shortly after giving brief details about the shootings. When they tried calling him back, they got no answer.
When they got to the home, Marcus Milligan’s body was found in a detached garage next to a semiautomatic weapon. The bodies of his wife and children were found scattered inside the home.
“It’s a horrific day, and I know everybody’s prayers are appreciated,” Adams said on Friday. “My phone hasn’t stopped ringing from people concerned about this and upset about this.”
In a comment on the Facebook page of the California Los Angeles Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mike Murphy said Marcus Milligan was his companion at the Missionary Training Center and had served as a missionary with him from 2003 to 2005
“He was my companion in the MTC, and then got to serve with him again in LA. So many good memories,” he wrote.
Officials at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by The Christian Post on Monday.
The shootings come just under a week after Tara Milligan openly mourned the loss of their son Conor to cancer three years earlier. She said she was yearning to spend a moment with her deceased son.
“Time passes so strangely in grief. Somehow it’s been three whole years since we had to say goodbye to Conor. What wouldn’t I give for another perfect moment like this one, even if just for a heartbeat,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
An obituary for Conor shows that he died on Sept. 3, 2019, at the age of 3.
“Although Conor was not with us very long, he left a great impact on all of the lives that crossed his path. He was known for his infectious smile and strong spirit. While at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he amazed all of his doctors and nurses with how strong he was,” the obituary said. “Conor enjoyed playing outside and loved puppies. He had four stuffed animal puppies that were always with him for comfort. He also enjoyed playing with toy helicopters and he liked sharks.”
Alisha Minter, who said she worshiped with the family at their local temple, grieved for the family on Sunday morning and shared how the family had inspired her.
“I don’t understand. My words fail me as I type this post. When we moved to Maryland Marc and Tara Ricker Milligan were one of the first families we met. The light they and their beautiful children brought in, you immediately fell in love with. Watching them from the church pews smiling and laughing. Having dinner and lunch dates with this family was a highlight of our day,” she wrote on Facebook.
“Conor was diagnosed with cancer around the same time Claire was diagnosed with her rare genetic disorder. Tara and I spoke a lot about our babies and the hardships that would soon follow, but I never ever thought this would be the end of their loving family. Tara held my hand many times and I hers. Conor fought a hard and long battle and earned his wings all too soon. I know that the reunion is a beautiful one for this family,” she added.
Minter urged members of the public to reach out for help if they feel suicidal and suggested that their church perhaps could have done more to help even though it is still unclear what triggered the shootings.
“Please. Please. I beg of you all, if you are having these thoughts, call someone. Anyone. This tragic loss of life is preventable! Marc I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that we as a congregation failed you in these dark times. I’m so sorry that you felt this was the only way out of it. Tara and the children should be alive today. They didn’t deserve this,” she wrote.
“Marc should be live today. You didn’t deserve this either. I’m heartbroken. This family should still be here. We need to do better about checking on one another and making sure they are ok. Mental illness is a debilitating disease that effects an entire family. Please heed this warning and check on your kin, and your friends, especially when they go quiet. Please.”