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Police search for motive in Colonie officer's murder-suicide

Police search for motive in Colonie officer's murder-suicide

Colonie police officer Israel Roman shot his wife and son to death before setting their Latham house
Police search for motive in Colonie officer's murder-suicide
Police on the scene the day after a fatal fire at 35 Schalren Dr. in Latham, Feb. 10, 2016.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
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Colonie police officer Israel Roman shot his wife and son to death before setting their Latham house on fire and committing suicide, according to police.

It’s unclear why Roman, 44, who served with the Colonie Police Department for a dozen years, shot his wife, Deborah, 44, and 10-year-old son, Nathan, with his service pistol Tuesday afternoon before setting their Schalren Drive house on fire and shooting himself.

“At this point what we don’t know is why he did this,” State Police Capt. Robert Patnaude said at a press conference at Colonie Police Headquarters this morning. “We don’t have a motive at this point. We hope to be able to find a motive.”

TRAGIC TIMELINE

TUESDAY, FEB. 9

— Colonie Police Officer Israel Roman is off duty. His wife, Deborah, had taken the day off from her teaching job at Bradt Primary School in Mohonasen for a doctor’s appointment that morning. Police did not specify the time, place or reason for the appointment.

— 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.: Israel and Deborah left their home at 35 Schalren Drive in Latham together. Police say they don’t know where the couple went.

— Afternoon: At some point, Israel went to a gun dealer — police did not disclose where — and sold three of the four weapons he brought with him. Police say they don’t know why he sold the weapons.

— 3 p.m.: Israel met his oldest son, Noah, 15, at Shaker High School to give him money. Noah then went to Burger King with friends before going to a basketball game Tuesday evening at the school.

— 3:52 p.m.: Israel put Noah’s clothes, and presumably other belongings and possibly money, in the back of his car, which was parked at the house.

— Late afternoon: After putting Noah’s belongings in the car, Israel called his mother — who was not identified by name by police — and asked her to pick Noah up from the basketball game.

— Early evening: Israel shot his wife and 10-year-old son, Nathan, inside their home. They both suffererd single gunshot wounds. Israel put them in bed and then lit the house on fire. He returned to the bedroom and shot himself.

— 5:46 p.m.: Colonie police and firefighters responded to reports of a structure fire at 35 Schalren Drive. Police did not know anyone was home at the time of the fire.

— 9 p.m.: The blaze was under control and three bodies were removed from the home. They later were identified as Israel, Deborah and Nathan Roman.

— Compiled by Haley Viccaro from police reports

The bodies of Roman, his wife and son were removed from the destroyed home by the Albany County Coroner’s Office after the flames were under control around 9 p.m. on Tuesday, police said.

Dr. Michael Sikirica performed the autopsies on Wednesday afternoon.

Roman’s 15-year-old son, Noah — who attends Shaker High School in Latham — was at his school’s basketball game when the incident occurred, police said. He was picked up by Colonie police Tuesday evening and now is staying with relatives.

Surveillance video from a neighbor’s house shows Roman going to his car at 3:52 p.m. Tuesday and putting his older son’s clothing in the back of the vehicle, police said.

Roman then went back inside his house and called his mother and asked her to pick Noah up from the basketball game Tuesday evening.

Colonie police responded to the fire at 35 Schalren Drive at 5:46 p.m. Tuesday, police said. Video from the neighbor’s home shows fire on the first floor of the home shortly after 5 p.m., but it’s unclear if that’s where the fire started, Patnaude said.

During the press conference today, Patnaude said noise was heard from the home that was ammunition being released as a result of the fire on the second floor.

Patnaude said it’s unclear where Roman shot his wife and son in the home. They both were shot once. Roman placed them in their beds in the back of the house, and that’s where Roman then shot himself, Patnaude said.

Before the murder-suicide, Roman and his wife, Deborah, left the house together between 11 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Patnaude said. He said State Police would like to speak with anyone who might have seen them at that time. The number to provide any information is (518) 783-2754.

At 3 p.m., Roman met his older son, Noah, at Shaker High to give him some money, police said. Noah then went with friends to Burger King before the basketball game.

Roman also took four weapons to a gun dealer Tuesday afternoon and sold three of them, Patnaude said. Roman didn’t sell the fourth one because he wasn’t satisfied with the suggested price tag, Patnaude said.

He said it’s unclear why Roman sold the weapons before the incident. It doesn’t appear the Romans were in financial hardship, Patnaude said.

Deborah Roman was a teacher at Bradt Primary School in the Mohonasen Central School District. She took off from work on Tuesday for a doctor’s appointment, Patnaude said. He said she did go to the doctor’s appointment on Tuesday morning.

Deborah was an English as a New Language Learners teacher at Bradt, according to a letter from Principal Michele Whitley and district Superintendent Kathleen Spring.

“Mrs. Roman was a vibrant member of the Mohonasen community for nearly 20 years,” the letter says. “She touched the lives of countless children and was a friend to all who crossed her path. We are heartbroken by this tragic news. Mrs. Roman was a phenomenal educator who will be deeply missed.”

Colonie Police Chief Jonathan Teale described the murder-suicide as “horrifying” and “difficult.”

Teale said Roman served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1991 to 1997. He said there was no indication of post traumatic stress disorder or any other mental-health issues.

Teale said Roman was described by his colleagues as “kind, hardworking and dependable.”

He was off duty during the time of the incident but was at work the previous day, Teale said. Roman asked for the day off this Saturday hunting with a friend, he said.

“This is a tragic, senseless event,” Teale said. “But we will move forward. We have jobs to do and we will do it.”

He added that Colonie police still have a lot of questions to get answered. The investigation is ongoing.

Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan addressed the media at the start of the press conference today, saying, “Our whole community is mourning this terrible tragedy.”

“Our hearts go out to the Roman family,” she added.

Noah is a sophomore at Shaker. His brother, Nathan, was a fifth-grader at Forts Ferry Elementary School in Latham. Police say Nathan and Noah were the Romans’ biological sons.

There was no evidence of marital problems or domestic disputes between Israel and Deborah, according to police.

The Mohonasen Central School District said on its website Wednesday it had learned that Deborah Roman and her husband and son had “passed away in a fire at their Colonie home on Tuesday evening.”

The district said counselors and other support staff would be available to students, teachers and parents.

In a statement, the North Colonie Central School District — which the fire occurred in — said it also is providing support to students and staff. The district has arranged grief counselors to staff various school buildings.

The cause and origin of the fire still have not been determined. The house, off Forts Ferry Road, was gutted by the fire and probably will be demolished, according to Colonie police Lt. Bob Winn.

Patnaude said Colonie and State Police conducted extensive interviews with neighbors but that no one saw or heard anything before the fire on Tuesday.

Neighbor Lindsay Murthy said Wednesday morning that she often saw Roman playing with his two sons outside their home at 35 Schalren Drive.

“We knew Israel through passing, said Murthy, who lives two doors down at 39 Schalren. “He seemed like a good guy. He was always playing with his kids. We’re shocked about the whole thing.”

Murthy said she wasn’t home at the time of the fire but that her husband and son were.

“I’m still in shock,” she said Wednesday while shoveling snow in front of her house as her young son played outside. “I can’t believe it.”

Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, hviccaro@dailygazette.net or @HRViccaro on Twitter.

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