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Associated Press photos
Investigators suspect the driver in this deadly wrong-way crash on I-94 near Michigan City may have killed three family members earlier near Detroit.

Driver in wrong-way crash linked to 3 family slayings

A mother and her two young sons were found stabbed to death in this suburban Detroit home.

– A woman and two children found dead in a suburban Detroit home when officers went to notify her of her husband’s death in a fatal crash were stabbed with a butcher knife, police said Friday.

Police said officers entered the two-story home after finding the door ajar and getting no response. They found the bodies of Linda VanDerLinden and her two sons in separate bedrooms.

Van Buren Township police Capt. Gregory Laurain said an autopsy showed Linda VanDerLinden, 34, died of strangulation but had been stabbed in the chest. Her sons, Julien VanDerLinden, 7, and Matthew VanDerLinden, 4, had been stabled multiple times in the chest and arms.

Investigators believe an 8 1/2 -inch butcher knife found in the kitchen sink was the weapon used in the stabbings, Laurain said.

Officers went to the home Thursday to tell Linda VanDerLinden that her husband, Michael VanDerLinden, 39, had died in a crash in Indiana. While the medical examiner’s office couldn’t pinpoint when Linda VanDerLinden and her sons died, investigators are examining whether Michael VanderLinden killed them before committing suicide by driving the wrong way on an interstate, instantly killing a stranger as he slammed into the man’s car.

Michael VanDerLinden is “absolutely” suspected of killing his family, Laurain said. But he added, “We’re following up on the leads. While the husband, Michael, is suspected of being responsible for the killings, we have not reached any conclusion, and our investigation is still continuing.”

Police are looking into family issues as a possible motive for the slayings, Laurain said. Firefighters were called to the home in Wayne County’s Van Buren Township in November after Michael VanDerLinden took some pills in an apparent suicide attempt.

He and the other driver, 45-year-old Juan Nelson Jr., of Portage, Ind., were killed Thursday in the pre-dawn crash on Interstate 94 near Michigan City, not far from the Michigan state line, said John Sullivan, the coroner in LaPorte County.

Indiana State Police said Michael VanDerLinden had just left a highway rest area and was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of the freeway when he hit Nelson’s car. The crash closed two westbound lanes of I-94 for several hours.

“We know from Indiana State Police, according to one of their witnesses, the vehicle that he was driving had its headlights turned off while on I-94 and at the time of the accident,” Laurain said. “We don’t know why. We don’t know if it was intentionally or accidentally.”

An evidence technician went through Michael VanDerLinden’s vehicle after the crash but didn’t find anything valuable as evidence, Laurain said. Both cars burst into flames after the collision.