ORTING, Wash. - Monday night Angela Harrison came to collect her things and some mementos from the home she shared with her five children and her husband. It was her first return to the place where she suffered an unimaginable loss.
"They were my world and they were taken from me not because I didn't want them, but because he was a selfish person," Harrison said.
Investigators believe James Harrison shot his children and then himself after believing Angela was leaving him for another man. Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said the 35-year-old father was found dead Saturday afternoon in Auburn.
The five children - 16-year-old Maxine, 14-year-old Jayme, 12-year-old Samantha, 9-year-old Heather and 7-year-old James - were discovered later Saturday, shot to death in the family's mobile home in Graham, 15 miles southeast of Tacoma. James Harrison was found dead at the wheel of his still-running car near the Muckleshoot Casino.
Angela Harrison says she was leaving her husband but was not having an affair. She feared for her own safety - but didn't think he would hurt the kids.
"I figured I would get out and I was going back that very next day to get my kids as soon as I got a place," she said. "I wasn't having an affair. I had a friend that showed me it was not OK to be treated the way I was being treated."
Police say sometime Friday, James and his 16-year-old daughter went looking for Angela and found her at an Auburn convenience store with another man. James confronted the couple and then went home and talked the issue over with friends and family and put his kids to bed.
Police say a few hours later, he took a rifle and shot each of his five children multiple times - four of them in their beds and the fifth as she tried to escape.
"The fifth we found in the bathroom. It appears there was a pretty big struggle, a lot of wrestling around and breakage of furniture in the bathroom," said Troyer.
Angela Harrison says her children are a permanent part of her body and soul. She already had their names tattooed on her leg. Now, she has added the dates of when they were born and when they died.
"I can't hold them but I have them in heart. And I'm gonna live for my children," she said.
Coping at school
The kids had many friends. Monday was their first day back at school since the tragedy.
Staff at the Orting School District reported to work early Monday as they prepared to help their roughly 2,000 students grieve the loss.
"It's a monumental responsibility in terms of how we help our kids deal with this and we don't take it lightly. Our staff is ready for this and will be prepared to do it," said Jeff Davis, Orting School Superintendent. "They ask me how do you explain to children this kind of senseless violence? I don't know how you even explain it to an adult. I'm trying to come to grips with it the best I can."
Friends say they are glad they could go to school Monday to talk about Maxine and mourn her together.
"I think it's easier so you can talk to your friends and help them out too because everyone is the whole community is going through this and they're just heartbroken," said Kaitlyn Sapp, a friend of Maxine.
"I just think its horrifying someone would do that to their own kids," said classmate Kyle Smith.
Outside the mobile home where all the children were killed, flames still burn in the candles that are part of a growing memorial. Neighbor Mary Ripplinger says she would see the Harrison kids at school bus every morning. She says their absence is almost unbearable.
"Oh, it was so hard, I almost didn't want to come outside. I could still see their faces," said Ripplinger.
One young girl says Jayme Harrison was her best friend. "I just don't feel comfortable without her and i really wish she was still her," she said. "I don't know why the dad would have done this."
One of the firefighters who were first on the scene knew one of the victims. One of the dead was a friend of his own 12-year-old child.
"It's unimaginable to think what that was like," said Chief Randy Shelton, who has experienced similar horrors on the job. " Nothing can prepare you for that."
Reader boards send condolences to the family and the talk all across the rural landscape is of the killings.
In an unusual move this weekend, Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor came to the crime scene and placed 5 small crosses from his church. His sadness gave way to anger.
"I don't apologize for that," said the soft spoken sheriff. " People should be angry when people are victimized like this, especially when children are victimized like this."
Back at the Orting fire house, Chief Shelton takes a knee, gathering his crew in a moment of reflection.
"It's okay to say I need a little bit of help," he advises them. "And I hope to the good Lord that nothing like this ever happens again. I do know it takes a toll and, after nearly 30 years in this business, it just never gets any easier."
Neighbors say Harrison could be mean and controlling with his kids. In 2007 there was a CPS investigation where Harrison slapped one of his daughters. He completed a parenting plan with the state and the case was closed.
Funds have been set up for the Harrison family's funeral expenses. You can donate at any US Bank or Wells Fargo location under "Five Harrison Memorial Fund."