A doctor apparently poisoned his three young daughters with drugs, then sat inside his parked Jaguar and killed himself with exhaust fumes Thursday in one of Oregon’s wealthiest neighborhoods.
The doctor’s estranged wife discovered her daughters - all under age 10 - dead in their beds at their grandmother’s house in the secluded, wooded Dunthorpe neighborhood.
Police called to the house heard an engine running in the garage, and found Dr. David Cornwall sitting behind the wheel of his dark blue Jaguar, dead of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Cornwall, 45, was a physician with offices in the coastal towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside. The girls were identified as Lauren, 9, Ashley, 5, and Caitlin, 4.
Cornwall’s wife, Karen, had filed for divorce in May and wanted her husband to have only limited visitation rights. But Cornwall’s brother, George, said the couple was trying to reconcile.
Multnomah County sheriff’s spokeswoman Barbara Simon said the doctor and his children had been staying at the home of his mother and her husband, who were on vacation.
The girls had gone to a park with their father and were supposed to be dropped off at the home of their mother, Karen Cornwall, who lives in nearby Lake Oswego.
“Karen went there last night wanting to know why the girls hadn’t been brought back and David told her they were asleep,” George Cornwall said. “She tried to wake one up but then decided to let them sleep.”
Cornwall said both he and Karen Cornwall called the house this morning but there was no answer. She then went to the house about 7 a.m.
He said police told the family that no weapons were found and that the doctor apparently used drugs to kill his daughters. Authorities declined to discuss the cause of death; autopsies were scheduled Friday.
Cornwall said his brother was trying to start over with his family and his career. He had put his two coastal clinics up for sale and had talked about moving to New Zealand.
“Karen was hoping for a reconciliation, but she felt smothered by my brother’s domination,” Cornwall said.
He said there was never any hint his brother might harm his children.
“I never imagined for a minute that this might happen,” Cornwall said.
The house was owned by James and Eleanor Milne, Cornwall’s mother by a previous marriage. Milne owns the J.C. Milne Construction Co.
The Milnes were notified of the killings while vacationing in Calgary, Alberta, and were scheduled to come back home Friday, a spokeswoman at Milne’s construction company said.
The killings shocked residents of the neighborhood, just south of the Portland city limits. Neighbors walked up the dead-end street lined with lush trees to the entrance of the Milne home, sealed off with yellow police tape.
Officers could be seen through the front door carrying tiny bodies, draped in white sheets, down the stairs of the two-story white brick house.
Family members of the victims, including Karen Cornwall, visited the crime scene. Many left in tears.
Neighbors described the Milnes as wealthy but down-to-earth people, who belonged to a country club and often entertained socially.
A boy who lives next door, 11-year-old Malcolm MacNaughton, said his sister often played with Cornwall’s daughters.
“They were nice,” the boy said. “(The Milnes) had a dog that just had puppies, and they would play with one of them.”
Crime is rare in the neighborhood, which is patrolled by a private security company. A sheriff’s deputy said the area is populated with lawyers, doctors and other professionals. A house across the street from the Milnes recently sold for $499,000.
Former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt lives around the corner. Other neighbors have included former Portland Trail Blazer star Clyde Drexler.
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