The Douglas County Coroner’s Office said Friday that Jennifer Marie Laber, 38, died from a self-inflicted gunshot to her head and that 3-year-old Adam and 5-year-old Ethan both were shot in the neck.
The three were found dead Nov. 30 in the secluded loading dock area of a vacant Sports Authority store as law enforcement from across the metro area searched for them.
Both Ethan and Adam had the opioids oxycodone and oxymorphone in their blood, according to their autopsies. They also had diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that commonly comes in the form of Benadryl and causes drowsiness, in their system.
The autopsies say the boys — whose deaths have been ruled homicides — were found in the car seats.
When Adam’s body was brought to the coroner’s office, it was accompanied by a stuffed animal and an open bag of gummy bear candies.
Laber had the anti-depressants bupropion and desmethylvenlafaxine in her blood, as well as lamotrigine, a medication used to treat bipolar disorder and seizures, according to her autopsy.
Authorities say Laber legally purchased a Glock 9mm handgun at a local store about 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 29 before going to pick up her son an hour earlier than normal dismissal time from his kindergarten class. Laber’s husband, Ryan, reported the three missing that night. The bodies of Laber and the children were found early the next morning.
The deaths shocked the Laber’s neighbors in Highlands Ranch, who recalled Jennifer as a committed mother who was always flanked by her children. “None of us saw this coming, not even (her husband),” said Brandon Tartler, a neighbor and family friend who was serving as a de facto spokesman.
Investigators said there were no red flags when the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office began searching for Laber and her boys after Ryan Laber reported them missing. “We certainly did not see this horrific ending that this case has come to today,” chief deputy Steve Johnson said after the bodies were found.
At a vigil after the deaths, Ryan Laber told those gathered that his wife battled deep depression.
“My wife and I had an immense love for our boys,” he said. “She had a sickness. We learned to cope and manage, but depression is a disease.”
“It’s first critical to know Jennifer Krannich Laber had a deep depressed episode,” he wrote. “We don’t know what triggered it, nor did any of those close to her see it coming. From her history, previous episodes involved very low self-esteem, no recognition of consequences to self harm, and a strong desire to escape.
“Depression,” he wrote, “is coercive and often operates in silence,” he wrote. “There is no fault to lay blame.”