New Albany children drowned; mother's cause of death still pending
Two children found dead alongside their mother in a southern Indiana park Wednesday died from drowning, Floyd County authorities said at a press conference Friday.
Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson says the bodies of Jamie Clutter, 35, and her children Brandon, 10, and Katelyn, six months, were discovered in a creek in Binford Park, New Albany at 5:10 pm Wednesday.
All three were unclothed with water in their lungs. Their clothing was strewn in and around the water. The medical examiner determined that the children drowned. The cause of death for Jamie Clutter is pending.
Official causes of death won't be determined until toxicology results are in, which could take up to four weeks.
Floyd County Coroner Leslie Knable didn't say how long the bodies were in the water but said it was likely a matter of hours, not days.
Clutter and her children had been seen around 7:00 am Wednesday, walking in the area. Police say a harness mothers wear to carry newborns was found hanging in a tree and Clutter's Bible was nearby.
Neighbors told Eyewitness News the family was very religious. They attended Greater Faith Church and had just moved to Indiana from Washington state in December.
Investigators say Clutter's husband Mike Clutter is cooperating with the investigation and allowed police to search their cars.
"There is no evidence to date to suggest that the father was present that afternoon at the creek," police said.
Prosecutor Keith Henderson called it a difficult case, but tried to ease community fears saying, "I have no reason to believe that we have an individual on the loose that would cause the public alarm or harm."
Police have not ruled out murder-suicide as a possibility.
Police were back on the scene in New Albany's Binford Park several times Thursday evening, searching for new evidence in the case, but so far, have said there are no suspects in the triple murder.
The bodies of 35-year-old Jamie Clutter, Jamie's son, Brandon Clutter, and her infant daughter, Katelyn Clutter, were found in a creek in the park Wednesday. The park is just a few blocks from the apartment the Clutter family called home.
An autopsy did not reveal an exact cause of death for the three victims, and police have said there is no evidence of foul play, but detectives are investigating the deaths as murders. The creek where the victims were found is only about 12 inches deep.
Police say right now there are no suspects.
The victims were very active in their church and had just moved to the area recently. Their deaths have everyone shocked and scared.
"Too close. Way too close. I don't like it," said New Albany resident Bryan Horn.
Some families are afraid to leave their homes.
"It's scary. Our kids play over there, you know? It's sad," said Kimberly, another resident.
Jamie Clutter's body was found along with the bodies of her two children in a shallow creek by the playground.
Thursday at the Greater Faith Church, which the Clutters attended, members learned three of their own were gone. The church pastor wouldn't go on camera, but told Eyewitness News he met Clutter's husband, Mike, Wednesday night at the police station. The pastor said Mike Clutter came home from work Wednesday to find his wife and children missing, but the baby's diaper bag, his wife's purse and keys were still in the apartment.
According to the pastor, that's when Clutter went to the police station to report his family missing, only to identify their bodies hours later in crime scene photos from the park.
Binford Park remains closed as homicide detectives investigate. The park's entrance is wrapped in crime tape.
"Thousands of questions wanting to know - what's going on? Why? How it happened? Who it is? And who would do such a sick thing to two children?" wondered Horn.
Police say the family just moved to Indiana from Washington State in December.
"We always spoke of God whenever we would meet or see each other in the hall," said neighbor Cathy Brooks. "We (recently) talked about Revelations and you know, the way the world is today, and how cruel it is."
Brooks could never have guessed, though, that just four days later the world's cruelty would impact the young mother she knew as her upstairs neighbor.
"I hope they catch whoever did this to this wonderful woman and two beautiful children," she said. "What could those kids have done? What could she have done? To end up like this?"
The family's pastor says the parents had a model marriage, and he's shocked at the lives lost. Neighbors are, too.
"Just hopefully they get to the bottom of what happened," said Terry Bennett, neighbor.
Parents are still worried, knowing two young lives were taken too soon.
"Who did this? They need to catch them because it's not safe. Somebody's out there that done this. They need to be caught," said Kimberly.
"I'm sick from it. I mean, I'm literally sick from this whole incident," Brooks said.
Brooks, filled with regret, remembered the last conversation she had with young Brandon Clutter. That's when the little boy invited her to church with his family.
"Truly, my intentions were to go to church with that little boy after he was so polite," she said.