Residents of the Lilley Lodge Assisted Living Facility in North Pole, Alaska, couldn’t wait for 22-year-old nursing assistant Emily McDonald to bring her newborn daughter into the center.
But that day never came to pass.
On Friday, the young mother, who was still on maternity leave, was the victim of a murder-suicide at the hands of her husband, McKay Hutton, 22, according to the Fairbanks Police Department. Hutton also fatally shot their infant daughter, eight-week-old Teagan Hutton, and his own mother, Linda Hutton, 54, before turning the gun on himself.
“I’m just in shock,” McDonald’s longtime employer, Lilley Lodge owner Terry Ann Gainer, tells PEOPLE. “I don’t think it has set in yet. They seemed so happy.”
Police responded Friday to a call from hotel staff at the Hampton Inn about a “suspicious circumstance,” according to Fairbanks police.
Officers who arrived on the scene found an adult male crying in the hallway before discovering the four dead bodies inside one of the rooms, according to the Fairbanks police.
The man crying in the hallway has since been identified as a family member, say police, who add that a preliminary investigation shows he was not there during the shooting. Authorities have not yet released his name.
A single firearm was recovered in the room, say police, who are withholding the make, model and location of the gun.
Authorities are awaiting the results of autopsies that were performed on the four victims on Monday, Fairbanks Police Department Public Information Officer Yumi McCulloch tells PEOPLE.
On Thanksgiving night, just hours before the shooting, Gainer says she saw a picture McDonald had posted on Facebook of her young son from another relationship and her infant daughter.
“Then the next day Emily and the baby were gone,” she says. “It just boggles the mind.”
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In the days following the murder-suicide, police are still working to determine motive.
“The million dollar question is why they were in that hotel room,” says Gainer. “They had a lovely little home nearby.”
Gainer met McDonald five years ago when she hired her to work at her assisted living facility. “She became a great part of our family. She was like one of our own,” Gainer says.
The residents McDonald cared for — by helping bathe and dress them — adored her and are devastated by her loss, says Gainer. “She was so kind-hearted and loving,” she says. “She had a gentle spirit. That’s why I hired her.”
While McDonald was private, she and Hutton, whom she wed in November 2015, “seemed very happy together,” says Gainer.
“I remember how excited she was to tell me she was having a little girl,” she says. “She was such a good mom. She was so devoted to her children. She loved her children.”
Gainer says she has no idea what led Hutton to allegedly shoot McDonald, their baby and his mother. In hindsight, she recalls photos of the family taken at the hotel and posted on Facebook just before their deaths — and finds the photos disturbing.
“They look so somber,” she says. “They don’t look happy at all. She was always smiling and laughing. When I saw those afterward, I thought, ‘Something was happening.’
“As happy as they seemed, no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors.”
Anyone with more information about the individuals involved should contact Detective Avery Thompson at 907-450-6549 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.