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2 Killed In Fiery Indiana Wrong-Way Crash; Driver’s Family Found Slain At Home

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Indiana Fatal Crash

Two people were killed in a head-on crash sparked by a wrong-way motorist on I-94 in Northwest Indiana. (Credit: Indiana State Police)

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Steve Miller is an investigative reporter and has been with Newsradio...
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UPDATED 08/16/12 – 5:16 p.m.

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (CBS) — A wrong-way driver triggered a crash that left two people dead in Northwest Indiana overnight, and when police came to notify the family of that driver, his wife and two young children were all dead.

The accident happened around 1:30 a.m. Thursday on Interstate 94, about three miles east of the Michigan City exit.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

Indiana State Police say it appears that a driver — identified as Michael Vanderlinden, 38, of Belleville, Mich. — pulled out of a rest area the wrong way, and headed east in the westbound lanes.

Vanderlinden’s car slammed head-on into a car being driven by Juan Nelson Jr., 45, of Portage Ind., authorities say.

Both cars burst into flames. The LaPorte County Fire Department came to put out the fire, and crews extricated both drivers from the vehicles.

Both of the drivers died in the crash. Nelson’s family told CBS 2’s Courtney Gousman that he worked at U.S. Steel.

Police in Belleville, Mich., came to Vanderlinden’s home around 7:30 a.m. Chicago time, and found the door ajar. When they looked inside, they found his 33-year-old wife, Linda, and two young children, ages 4 and 7, dead.

michael vanderlinden 0816 2 Killed In Fiery Indiana Wrong Way Crash; Drivers Family Found Slain At Home

Authorities say Michael Vanderlinden caused a crash that killed him and another driver when he drove the wrong way on Interstate 94 near Michigan City, Ind., on Aug. 16, 2012. Hours after the crash, his wife and children were found stabbed to death in the family home in Belleville, Mich. (Supplied to CBS)

LaPorte County, Ind., Coroner John Sullivan said that it appears that Vanderlinden stabbed his children and fled. Van Buren Township police said the deceased husband is a person of interest in the homicides.

Police did recover a weapon in the home, but did not indicate how the three were killed. The mother was found in her bedroom on the floor, and the children were found in their bedrooms.

“It is very, very disturbing that something like this happens in any community and especially in our semi-rural township of Van Buren,” Van Buren Township, Mich., Supervisor Paul White told WWJ-AM Detroit’s Roberta Jasina.

Belleville, Mich., is a town of about 4,000 located about halfway between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

No notes were left at the scene where the mother and children were killed. Investigators have secured the answering machine in the house to see if that will help with investigation.

For four years, the Vanderlinden family lived one house away from Carl Felson in Mint Hill, North Carolina.

“Linda was wonderful,” Felson told WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller. “She was a schoolteacher. They moved here from Michigan because Michael lost his job and he took a job I believe as an independent contractor. He was an IT expert. He was from Belgium. Very smart.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller Reports

Felson says the Vanderlindens moved back to Michigan. And the hard times continued for Michael Vanderlinden.

“I had heard that he was having a difficult time,” he said.

“It is so very sad.”

Investigators planned to run tests to determine if Vanderlinden was using drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.

CBS 2 has also learned Vanderlinden previously tried to kill himself by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.

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