UPDATED at 11 a.m. Wednesday with comments from police captain and a relative of two of the victims.
Three men who were found dead at a duplex in Union died of carbon monoxide poisoning after one of the men apparently left his car running in a garage, authorities said Wednesday.
Edward G. Huddleston, 74, and his dog were found dead in one apartment on Tuesday. Verlyn R. Branson, 85, and his son, John E. Branson, 58, were found dead in an adjoining unit of the duplex.
Union police Capt. Richard Neace told the Post-Dispatch on Wednesday that the carbon monoxide release apparently came from a vehicle left running in Huddleston’s garage overnight. He said no foul play is suspected and investigators don’t think it was a suicide.
“It’s unclear” why he left the car running, Neace said. “Maybe got distracted … we will probably never know.”
Neace said officers went to the duplex at 511 South Washington Avenue about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday to check the well-being of Huddleston. Staff at a heart and vascular center had called police because they were concerned his implanted cardioverter-defibrillator had given a low reading sometime overnight. Huddleston’s sister had also asked police to check on him because she couldn’t reach him.
Police knocked on Huddleston’s apartment but didn’t get an answer. Officers went to the adjoining unit and didn’t get an answer there either.
After obtaining keys to Huddleston’s apartment, officers found him dead on his bed and his dog dead on the floor. Police found no signs of trauma, no indication that someone had broken in and no note left by Huddleston that would indicate suicide.
While they were inside the apartment, officers started to detect a chemical odor. They checked the garage and noticed it was “extremely hot and had a strong odor of chemicals coming from it,” according to a written summary of the case by Union police Sgt. Steven Sachs.
Police left the home and called for firefighters who detected high levels of carbon monoxide. Police and a firefighter wearing a breathing apparatus entered the adjoining apartment and found the bodies of the Bransons.
Donna Lippert, daughter of Verlyn Branson and sister of John Branson, said she was waiting to hear details from a police detective to learn more about what happened.
Lippert said her father was retired from a petroleum pipeline job. He was an avid outdoorsman and loved being with his three grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Her brother moved in to take care of his father after their mother died in 2005. She said her brother enjoyed fishing and mushroom hunting.
Huddleston was a friend to the Bransons, Lippert said. Her father befriended Huddleston at a coffee shop in Union where the elder Branson gathered every morning and was a regular for 50 years.
Lippert said her father and brother didn’t have a carbon monoxide detector. She said she hopes news of their deaths convinces people to install detectors and to check the batteries.
“You never know when something is going to happen like this,” Lippert said.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas found in fumes from vehicle engines or stoves, fireplaces and furnaces. Some common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness and confusion. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who are asleep can die from poisoning before they have any symptoms.