What began as a case involving a missing mother and her two young sons had a tragic ending Wednesday morning.
Lone Tree Police confirm the bodies of Jennifer Laber, 36, and her two children -- Adam Laber, 3, and Ethan Laber, 5 – were found in a van parked in an isolated loading bay at a now-shuttered Sports Authority.
“It's about as bad as it gets,” family spokesperson and next door neighbor Brandon Tartler said.
Tartler held back tears as he talked about the two young boys his children would play with on the cul-de-sac in their Highlands Ranch neighborhood.
“Loving, joyful. Good kids. It's heartbreaking,” he said.
Jennifer Laber’s husband first reported the three missing at around 8 p.m. on Tuesday. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office says the mother and sons were last seen at 2 p.m. Tuesday, when she had picked them up from Bear Canyon Elementary School. Security footage shows them leaving, but they never came home.
A spokesperson for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Laber took the kids out of school early. The reason why is unknown.
The sheriff’s office distributed photos of Jennifer Laber and her sons early Wednesday morning, as well as a description and license plate number for their van, asking the public to be on the lookout.
The passerby who spotted the parked vehicle called police just before 7:50 a.m. Wednesday.
Investigators say they’re still trying to determine how the mother and her two sons died. They don’t believe there’s a threat to the public.
Jennifer Laber’s husband and the father of the two young boys has been cooperating fully with the investigation, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. He is not a suspect.
Officials say there are no suspects.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office says there were no “red flags” that pointed to possible violence in this case, and no Amber Alert was issued.
“Everybody's blindsided. We had no indication, nothing like that. No abrupt behavior by any means. Just blindsided,” Tartler said.
He said depression may have played a role, but for now, the family will just have to wait for answers.
“We lost a wonderful mom and two boys,” he said.
The van was found at 7848 E. County Line Road – not far from the busy intersection of C-470 and Quebec Street.
Bear Canyon Elementary is offering counselors and mental health professionals to students and staff who need it.
"We recognize that this information is hard to process and will impact everyone differently. There are resources available to help during this difficult time, but the most important thing is that we are here to support one other," said Principal Kelly Ursetta in a statement to parents.
PHOTOS: Death investigation in Lone Tree