| Family dead in murder-suicide struggled with financial problems |
Oak Forest police Chief Gregory Anderson describes the "gruesome" scene officers encountered inside a home where the bodies of two adults and a teenager were found on Feb. 8, 2016. (WGN-TV)
Nick SwedbergDaily Southtown
In many ways, the Joosts were pillars of their south suburban Chicago community of Oak Forest.
David Joost, a 54-year-old known for his wonderful singing voice, frequently sang solos in front of the congregation at the family's Tinley Park church. His wife, Margaret O'Leary-Joost, 55, helped people in crisis at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn as a licensed clinical professional counselor.
The couple raised two children: a 20-year-old daughter, Kathryn, who attends Millikin University in Decatur, and an 18-year-old son, Daniel, who was autistic and spent much of his time playing on the computer.
But, despite appearances, there were problems inside the Joost household.
They apparently led to Monday night's discovery of the bodies of the couple and their son inside their home in the 6600 block of Courtney Avenue, in what police Chief Gregory Anderson called the gruesome and horrific scene of a murder-suicide. The couple's daughter was away at school at the time.
At least one close relative of David Joost said she was unaware of any problems the couple may have had. But neighbors said they knew the Joosts had struggled financially for years. Court and tax records show the couple filed for bankruptcy twice in 2003 but refinanced their home in 2004 and obtained a release from the lender in 2007. Police said David Joost recently lost his job in Orland Park.
A father, mother and their 18-year-old son were found dead in their Oak Forest home Monday night in an apparent murder-suicide, police said Feb. 9, 2016.
(Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)
At some point Friday or early Saturday, he apparently strangled his wife and son, both of whom were found in their beds, police said. The Cook County medical examiner's office confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Margaret died of asphyxiation, likely due to strangulation and smothering, while Daniel died of asphyxiation from ligature strangulation.
David Joost's cause of death was listed as suicide by asphyxiation, hanging and incised wrist wounds, according to the medical examiner's office. Police said he tried to hang himself, slit his wrists and closed himself in the garage with the car running.
O'Leary-Joost had called in sick to work Friday, police said. When she didn't show up for work Monday, a co-worker went to check on her and saw what looked like blood coming from under the garage door. David Joost's body was found on the garage floor.
No signs of forced entry were found. Police did not recover a suicide note at the scene.
Investigators were talking to friends, family and co-workers to gather more information Tuesday, but police said additional updates about the incident are not expected. There was no history of domestic violence or police calls to the house, they said, and there were no signs in the house of any other trouble or crime aside from the three deaths, Anderson said.
Killings are unusual in Oak Forest. Since 2010, there had only been two other murder cases.
David Joost's family offered little insight into what might have prompted him to kill his wife, son and himself. He was the youngest of four siblings who grew up in the southern Illinois town of Steeleville.
"He was always popular in school and did a lot with music," said Kathy Mortenson, 70, of St. Charles, Mo., the oldest sibling. She said she did not know about financial troubles or any other problems the family was experiencing.
More than 15 years separate Mortenson and David Joost, she said. Their mother, Ruth Joost, died in 2011 at 90. Elmer Joost, their father, died in 1991, according to an obituary.
"I know that Mom and Dad took good care of him," she said. "They probably overindulged him when he was growing up."
Other members of the couple's immediate family declined to speak about the tragedy or did not return requests for comment left Tuesday.
Advocate Christ Medical Center issued a statement Tuesday morning about O'Leary-Joost: "Margaret O'Leary-Joost was a wonderful colleague and cherished member of the Advocate Christ Medical Center family. The leadership and compassion she provided to patients and colleagues every day will be deeply missed. We continue to hold her loved ones in our thoughts and prayers."
Neighbors said they were shocked to hear what had happened to the Joost family after seeing police cars parked out front of their home all night.
Next door neighbor Mary O'Malley said David Joost would sometimes seem deeply sullen, but other times he was happy and talkative when she encountered him.
"Sometimes, he would come over and talk to me for 20 minutes," O'Malley said. "He'd just keep going about how wonderful my kids are. He was very nice. And, at other times … he wouldn't even look up at me."
Margaret O'Leary-Joost was "always happy and nice," O'Malley said. The couple's son usually stayed inside and used the family computer, she said.
O'Malley said she thinks the family had financial problems for years. Several years ago, David Joost told her he could not afford to buy a canoe that he had wanted to get for his wife as a Christmas present.
"He seemed like a regular neighbor," said another nearby resident, Rich Butkus. "I had never suspected anything."
Butkus said he's known the Joost family since they moved into the house in 2000. The two families' children used to play together.
"Behind closed doors, you don't know what happens," he said.
Millikin University President Patrick White also released a statement expressing condolences Tuesday: "The Millikin University community is saddened by this news. Moments like these make us pause to evaluate what is important, and right now our focus is on helping support Kathryn. We extend our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to Kathryn and her extended family."
The Joosts were members of the Zion Lutheran Church in Tinley Park. The Rev. Dave Peters, the pastor, remembers David Joost as a strong soloist in the choir and a great musical talent, a trait he passed down to his daughter. David Joost maintained a music blog and, at one time, had aspirations of managing artists.
Peters said David Joost was the most visible member of the family at the church.
"His wife was around for worship and times of gathering, but she was more connected to career and to home, as most good moms are," the pastor said.
Daniel Joost would spend time with several other autistic children who are members of the congregation.
David Joost was "trying to do things always with his son in mind" as he struggled financially, Peters said.
Joost's employment history was not entirely clear Tuesday, though the pastor said he held a number of jobs over the years. A message left Tuesday with one of his previous employers was not immediately returned.
The pastor said Tuesday that family members had not yet contacted the church about funeral arrangements.
Nick Swedberg is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown. Chicago Tribune's Megan Crepeau and Matthew Walberg contributed.