ST. CLAIR • Four people found dead Thursday inside a home in St. Clair likely died of carbon monoxide poisoning, St. Clair Police Chief Bill Hammack said.
Angela S. Sohn, 29, her boyfriend, Ryan G. Yoder, 27, and his two children, Devin Yoder, 4, and Tessa Yoder, 3, were found Thursday afternoon in the home at 1585 North Commercial Avenue after friends went to check on the family, police said.
Investigators do not suspect foul play. None of the bodies had any visible signs of injury and there was no evidence of forced entry to the home, Hammack said.
Three of the bodies were found in a bedroom. The fourth was discovered on a couch. It was unclear exactly when they died, Hammack said.
The St. Louis County medical examiner was to conduct autopsies on the four victims Friday.
Ryan Yoder, an auto mechanic, had only moved into the rental home about two weeks ago, said Lauri Schroeder, a Yoder family friend who lives in St. Clair.
When Ryan Yoder failed to show up to work for several days, friends went by the home. They looked through the window and saw a body, then called police, who forced their way into the home.
"The only thing that needs to be said is: 'Use a detector,'" Schroeder said. "We're going to work to make an awareness campaign."
Schroeder said she would like Missouri to pass a law requiring that homes have carbon monoxide detectors.
Family members told police Sohn and Ryan Yoder were sick early in the week, complaining of nausea. Family members last saw them alive on Tuesday, according to Tiffany Rulo, an aunt of the two children.
"(Ryan Yoder's mother) thought it was food poisoning actually," Rulo said. "She took them over some Pepto-Bismol and ate dinner with them and then hadn't heard from them for two days."
St. Clair, in Franklin County, is about 50 miles southwest of St. Louis, near Interstate 44.
When police arrived, the pilot light on the gas furnace was out, and the temperature inside the home was only 54 degrees, said Hammack, the police chief.
Rulo said they had had trouble with the furnace and that Ryan Yoder had contacted the landlord about the problem and tried to repair it himself when it wasn't fixed. She said there was no carbon monoxide detector in the home.
Rulo said her sister, Amberly Jones, was mourning the loss of her children, Devin and Tessa,
"She thinks there should be a law that homeowners should have carbon monoxide detectors in their homes when they are using gas, and there wasn't," she said. "She is full of anger and hate right now."
Hammack said a big clue that the deaths were a result of carbon monoxide poisoning came to him shortly after he and two detectives got into the home.
"We started getting headaches while we were there," Hammack said. "I aired the place out, and we called the Fire Department to take readings."
But the Fire Department's test of the air didn't detect any, possibly because police had already opened windows and aired out the home, he said.
Friends of the family have established the Yoder Family Fund at Farmers & Merchants Bank, 530 South Main Street, St. Clair, Mo. 63077. Contributions may be made at any Farmers & Merchants bank location.
Tanya Gable, branch manager of the Farmers branch in Lonedell, said she set up the fund to help pay funeral expenses for Ryan Yoder and his two children. If there is any money left after that, Gable said the money would go to Ryan Yoder's surviving son, 8-year-old R.J., who was staying with his aunt.
Relatives of Sohn plan to deal with her expenses separately, Schroeder said. She said Sohn and Yoder had been dating about a year. Sohn has three children of her own. They were not staying at the home on Commercial, Schroeder said.
Patrick M. O'Connell of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.