ASHTABULA — For many in Ashtabula, what happened in the McEndree family’s home last month is difficult to believe.
But instead of being torn apart by accusations their father killed their mother and tried to kill himself, the four McEndree children are coming together — with the community’s support.
Ashtabula police said John McEndree, 48, stabbed his wife, Debbie Lynn (Detore) McEndree, 48, multiple times during a domestic dispute May 12 at their Allen Avenue home in an apparent murder-suicide attempt.
The McEndrees have four children, Lyndsey (McEndree) Kaplan, 30, of Ashtabula; John McEndree II, 26, of Geneva; Kayte McEndree, 22, stationed in Aviano, Italy for the U.S. Air Force; and Kyler McEndree, 19, of Ashtabula.
While none of the children were home at the time on May 12, Kaplan was the one who found her parents about 6 p.m. when she stopped by to check on them, she said.
Her mother had called her about an hour before saying her father was drunk. Their constant fighting was “the norm” but nobody outside the family knew — not even the people at her work, Kaplan said.
“I was on my way to work and something told me to stop, so I stopped. ... I knew something was wrong. It was eerie and quiet and that house is never quiet,” she said. “We all knew something like this was going to happen, we just didn’t know it would be so soon.”
Shortly after, family, friends, community organizations and complete strangers jumped in to help the children. Friends paid for the funeral; the Sons of Italy donated the food for after the calling hours; the Crow’s Nest donated the meal after the funeral service; and area residents sent gifts of food, flowers and money.
“At our mother’s calling hours, people waited in line two to three hours to see us,” Kaplan said. “We received thousands of cards and donations.”
It has been an emotional time for the family.
“Thousands of people showed up for her calling hours,” John McEndree II said. “We appreciate their support; it shed a light on a devastating situation.”
The children also have received many, many cards and phone calls from family, friends and area residents, he said.
“It was overwhelming,” he said, choking back tears. “It’s awesome to see pure goodness in the community.”
Kaplan said life will never be the same. She misses her mother, who spent a lot of time at her house because she was unhappy at home.
“It’s a lot right now for me,” she said. “I feel like I am the mother now; I have three siblings to raise, plus my own family, and I am taking care of my grandmother now because my mom used to drive her.”
Kaplan said she can’t go back into her parents’ house alone. It’s just too emotional, she said.
Debbie McEndree was a lifelong Ashtabula resident. She graduated in 1984 from Ashtabula High School and worked as an LPN for Ashtabula County Medical Center for the past five years.
“She loved her job and had many friends there,” Kaplan said, noting her mother’s coworkers are some of many people who have been there “day in and day out” for them. They call every day to check on them and they have sent flowers and packages to the family.
Kaplan described her mother as loving and care-free.
“She loved babies and she she loved helping deliver babies (at ACMC),” she said.
Debbie also adored her two grandchildren and enjoyed shopping for them.
“She was a shopper,” Kaplan said. “We had coffee together at the Harbor Perk almost every day. I already miss that.”
Kayte McEndree, who returned to where she’s stationed in Italy, sent a message via her older brother: “Thank you so much to our close friends and family for all the love and support.”
John McEndree II said there is no animosity between their mother’s side of the family, the Detores, and the McEndrees.
“Both sides of our family have been extremely supportive,” he said.
Some have come from out of town to help out.
Kaplan echoed her brother’s sentiments.
“We have really held strong together,” she said.
They are looking forward to this summer’s McEndree family reunion, which is a major, annual event, John McEndree II said.
“The reunion will go on as planned — July 18 at Indian Creek Campground at Geneva-on-the-Lake,” he said. “There is no animosity between us.”
Their father pleaded not guilty during his arraignment last week in Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court in Jefferson. He’s been in jail since the day of the murder, and is being held in the county jail on a $1.2 million cash or surety bond.
Accompanied by family members, the children went to their father’s initial court appearance, but Kaplan said, “We are all pretty much done with him.”