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Police: Why Did Iraqi Vet Kill Family, Self?

Associated Press

August 20, 2010

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – An Iraq war veteran who police say shot and killed his pregnant wife and young daughter before turning the gun on himself left behind no clues to explain what might have prompted the bloodshed, investigators say.

There was no note and no evidence that there had been trouble between 23-year-old Matthew Magdzas and his wife, 26-year-old April Oles-Magdzas, before the shootings, detectives said.

Oles-Magdzas’ mother found the bodies of the couple, their 13-month-old daughter, Lila, and their three dogs on Wednesday _ the same day Oles-Magdzas was set to deliver her second daughter, friends said.

Detectives said they haven’t found any evidence the couple was having money issues or was overly stressed by the pending birth of their daughter. They apparently had been faithful to each other, investigators said, adding they had no reports of any domestic disputes between them.

“Unfortunately, sometimes in these things, if they don’t leave a note, we don’t definitely have a why. (It’s) tough for the family, tough for the friends, tough for the community,” said Superior Police Capt. Chad La Lor.

La Lor said investigators plan to subpoena Magdzas’ military medical records to see if he had complained of or been treated for signs of post traumatic stress disorder.


In this 2007 photo provided by the Superior Telegram, Pfc. Matthew Magdzas listens to family members outside of the National Guard Armory in Superior, Wis. while posing for a picture Police in Superior say a veteran apparently killed his pregnant wife and

Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin National Guard, said the military can not disclose Magdzas’ health records to the public.

Magdzas enlisted in the National Guard during the summer of 2004, between his junior and senior years in high school, said Guthrie, a Wisconsin National Guard spokeswoman. He had completed his training by October 2005 and was assigned to the Superior-based 950th Engineer Company.

He volunteered to deploy overseas with the Milwaukee-based 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery Regiment in 2006. The unit was tasked with protecting convoys moving from Kuwait into northern Iraq, Guthrie said.

He served as a vehicle gunner and was involved in a small-arms battle in Iraq in November 2006, she said. She did not know exactly where the battle took place. His deployment ended in 2007.

After returning to Wisconsin, Magdzas went to work as a firearms instructor for Better Defense, a shooting school that provides classes in northern Wisconsin and southern Minnesota. According to his profile on the school’s website, Magdzas began shooting before he was 12 years old. It also said he received the Purple Heart, an award given to U.S. military personnel wounded or killed in battle. Guthrie said there is no record he received the honor.

The school’s chief executive officer and master instructor, Gary Bjergo, did not respond to phone messages Thursday.

Oles-Magdzas attended Carlton High School in Carlton, Minn. Her science teacher, Deb Saunders, described her as an artistic, “sparkly” young lady who was into dancing and cheerleading. She often stopped sad-looking students in the halls to ask them what was wrong, Saunders said.

Tessa Buscko, 36, of Duluth, Minn., said she worked with Oles-Magdzas, and briefly with Magdzas, at Community Connections, a Duluth foster care facility for people with brain injuries. Oles-Magdzas had recently left the home, however, to take a job as an assistant cheerleading coach at Duluth East High School.

“April’s passion for working with young people was evident to everyone that came into contact with her,” the school’s activities director, Shawn Roed, said in a statement. “She will be sadly missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends.”

Buscko said Oles-Magdzas was due to give birth by C-section the day her body was found. She said Oles-Magdzas planned to name the baby Anna.

She didn’t know what could have driven Magdzas to wipe out his family.

“He must have had a flashback or something. I don’t know. That’s crazy. Matt doesn’t seem like that type of person,” Buscko said. “The only thing people can think of is coming back from the war and trying to live a normal life.”

Investigators recovered a 9-millimeter handgun in the house they believe Magdzas used. They also discovered what appeared to be a bomb in a backpack in the house, but explosives experts later determined it likely wasn’t and destroyed it.

“Wow, he must have really …” Buscko said, trailing off. “It’s just sad all the way around.”

(Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • 1226772322_l_max50


    about 4 years ago


    My prayers go out to the family and friends of all the victims. PTSD is real with real consequences.

  • Picture_057_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Very sad..May god bless you all and R.I.P..

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50


    about 4 years ago


    A tragedy almost beyond comprehension. Rest in peace, Magdzas family.

  • Sparkle_girl_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Such a tragedy. Will never know the real reason why.
    Prayers to the families left behind.

  • G-pho-081231-nyss-4p


    about 4 years ago



  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago

    vets returning from combat with mental issues, or the thousands that had mental issues prior to going, represent a very real threat to the community and especially to LE....Im seeing so many warrants for recent vets its getting to the point where we are introducing even more training on the tactical side to make sure all officers in our division are prepared to deal with trained combat vets.

  • Fallenherobadge-3-1_max50_max50


    about 4 years ago


    My prayers to the family, friends, LEO's and community who now have to try and deal with this tragedy.

  • Phot0037_max50


    about 4 years ago


    i am going to guess from your comments robocop33 that you are not a combat vet. as any vet that has served in a combat setting can attest, its extremely stressful. i personally had 3 of my close buddies in my platoon killed and was wounded myself in a tour in iraq and i can attest that ptsd is very real. it's not a "military disorder" alone though. it can happen to anyone that sees or experiences a tramatic event, be it rape, murder, kidnapping, etc. so before you go running your mouth, you outta learn some facts.

  • Ba_old_glory_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Very tragic........

  • Heores_max50


    about 4 years ago


    I thought this might help anyone who knows someone afflicted with PTSD. God bless all of our soldiers and may we help protect them the same way they have protected us:

  • 68296_1409406641622_1426144160_30885395_5544139_n_max50


    about 4 years ago


    God be with his family. I will agree with MeanStreets949. PTSD comes in many forms. Lets keep an eye on our brothers and sisters in the armed forces and our fellow LEO's.

  • Flags_and_stars_max50


    about 4 years ago


    Well put Mean Streets949. My brother suffers from PTSD and is on the long road to recovery. Please talk to the vets and help them if you can!

  • Img_0103_max50


    about 4 years ago



    I concurr a 100%..!! In my daily duties as a Veterans Affairs Police Officer, I see and deal with this reality first hand. And like this poor unfortunately twisted minded Vet that did this ugly and aweful deed, many are not that obvious when they are suffering from this mind altering condition. Even though we are constantly being trained to Identify and handle those inflictted Vets, there is always that unnoticed Vet that comes out of nowhere and do unfortunate and evil things before thay are cought and stopped.

  • Police3_max50


    about 4 years ago


    very sad

  • 1984_v_max600_max50


    about 4 years ago


    PTSD is very real and very dangerous if left unchecked and untreated. If you know a vet and they are exhibiting signs of PTSD, say something and interact with the vet before it's too late. We're in the 21st century folks.............time to show our vets how much they are appreciated by taking care of them after they come home alive, not just honoring them when they're in a box. America is better than this. We all need to stand up in solidarity and let our warriors know it's alright to seek help when the things in your mind turn dark and shadowy. We will never know what was in this young man's mind when he did what he did. I will never justify it, but it bears a very hard look. I would not take anything for granted.

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