Harrington: Complex forensic testing delays results in 5 deaths in Sheffield

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SHEFFIELD — The snow has melted into the ground outside 1343 Home Road, and the windows and doors are boarded up.

Flowers rest on a makeshift shrine at the foot of the gravel driveway.

Investigators have finished their work here and released the home to the insurance company.

But exactly four weeks since a family of five was found dead in its burning home on a rural Sheffield road, answers remain elusive.

In the days that followed the March 13 tragedy, authorities indicated that they believed the homeowner, Luke Karpinski, killed his wife and their children before setting their house on fire and taking his own life. But few details, including the cause of death, have been released.

On Tuesday, Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington attributed the silence to complex forensic testing in the case.

"A number of state agencies are involved," she said during a news conference at which she unveiled a new initiative to combat domestic violence. "Their time frame is not in my control. The testing they are doing is complicated."

She also said she wants to make sure her team gets it right.

"It is a high priority for my office to make sure that ... their story is told," she said of the victims. "It's the job of my office to speak for them."

Harrington said she categorized the case as a domestic violence homicide, and added that she hopes to have more information to release by the end of the week.

Karpinski, his wife, Justine Wilbur, and the couple's three children, Alex, Zoe and Marek, were found dead March 13 by firefighters responding to a blaze at the home. Wilbur's body was found downstairs; the bodies of Karpinski and the children were found upstairs.

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Harrington said at the time that investigators did not believe the public was in any danger.

Initially calling it a complex and extensive investigation, she said investigators had amassed "overwhelming evidence" that Karpinski had killed the others, then himself.

Sources familiar with the initial response told reporters that Wilbur, 41, might have been stabbed before the blaze. And in a prepared statement, Harrington said Wilbur's "traumatic injury" appears to predate the fire.

Harrington said Karpinski used an accelerant to spread the fire, and that two 20-pound propane tanks were found in the upstairs living area of the carriage-style home.

Friends, neighbors, the children's school and that larger community still are in disbelief, and searching for a motive.

People who knew the family say Karpinski and Wilbur were quiet and kind, and lived what appeared to be a typical life centered around their children.

For some close friends of the couple, who had just finished building the Sheffield house, nothing seemed amiss.

Karpinski was a federal patent examiner who worked from home. Wilbur was a patent attorney who worked at a firm in Albany, N.Y. Both were graduates of Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton, where they met.

They had moved away, then came back to the area, and began building the house after buying the land in 2017.

Wilbur's sister initially had spoken to The Eagle, but in response to further requests for comment from the family, Karpinski's cousin last month asked for privacy, and said the family "had no official answers" and is still "in shock and disbelief."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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