updated 4/5/2006 2:44:55 AM ET 2006-04-05T06:44:55

A sheriff making a child-welfare check found the bodies of four family members — including two children — in what appears to be a murder-suicide, authorities said.

Erin Parkhurst, his wife, Lisa, and sons Trinity, 9, and Lane, 11, were found shot to death in a tenant home on a ranch in rural Hay Springs.

Sheridan County Attorney John Freudenberg said Tuesday that preliminary indications are that the deaths occurred Sunday or Monday.

Carol Lewin, who owned the ranch with her husband, said there were no signs of trouble in the Parkhurst family. The children were home-schooled and polite, she said.

Hay Springs is about 75 miles northeast of Scottsbluff. News of the slayings surprised the ranching community of about 650, said Cindy Peters, editor of the town’s biweekly newspaper, the Hip-Hop.

“This isn’t the way a small town wants to get into the news,” she told the Omaha World-Herald. The last slaying in Hay Springs was in 1986.

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