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Vigil held for Lake Wales family of 4 murdered; Accused killer dead, police say

The 38-year-old man reportedly made statements during a standoff with authorities that he would kill himself or force law enforcement to kill him.

SANFORD, Fla. — A man police say murdered a mother and her three children in Lake Wales is now dead after a shootout with law enforcement in Sanford.

Police say 38-year-old Al Stenson of Lake Wales shot and killed his 40-year-old girlfriend and her three children — a 21-year-old man along with a 17-year-old and an 11-year-old in an apartment at Sunrise Apartments on Dawnlight Drive

Family and friends held a vigil Wednesday for the family of four taken Tuesday night. Before they came together, 10 Tampa Bay's Angelina Salcedo spoke to Marlene Pizarro's brother who identified his sister, Marlene, his 21-year-old nephew and two nieces who are 17 and 11 years old.

"Everything that everyone is reading online and seeing in the news is true," Julian Ramos said. "My beautiful sister and my beautiful nieces and nephews were killed brutally. I can't go into too much detail, but it's true."

Heartbroken and without words, he asks the community for their support during this tough time saying the family would like to bring the four back to Juncos, Puerto Rico where Marlene's father is buried. They want to lay them to rest beside him. If you'd like to support the family during this tough time, click the GoFundMe link here.

The shooting happened around 5 a.m. Tuesday, and police believe Stenson took off immediately after committing the murders. But police said they weren't notified of the crime until just before 9 p.m. when officers responded to the Lake Wales apartment regarding a medical call. When they got there, they found four people dead.

By Wednesday morning, local detectives were brought to Sanford to work with the police department and Seminole County Sheriff's Office when a car identified as belonging to Stenson was found across the street from the Slumberland Motel.

According to Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma, Lake Wales and Sanford police eventually saw Stenson walk across the street.

This is when five local agencies combined forces as a SWAT team and headed over to the hotel at 6 a.m. Law enforcement began working on negotiating with Stenson through his brother, who was also in the motel room with him.

The 38-year-old reportedly made statements that he would kill himself or force law enforcement to kill him.

Once the brother was able to safely get out of the hotel room, Lemma said negotiations eventually led Stenson to put a gun down and step away from it.

The SWAT team decided to use a "less lethal option," which is a 40mm foam battalion not intended to kill or cause serious injury but just to subdue. After successfully deploying that, Lemma explains it had little effect on the 38-year-old who started to reach for the gun again.

Three of the SWAT team members, along with another member of the Sanford Police Department, fired their guns at Stenson.

As soon as he hit the ground, Lemma says law enforcement began to perform CPR on him, which was unsuccessful.

According to police, Stenson was pronounced dead at the scene.

There is an ongoing investigation as of now. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was asked to come in to conduct a full independent review of the incident.

The motive for the murders isn't known at this time. Law enforcement is asking anyone with information about this case to contact Detective Ricky Hartwell at 863-678-4223.

10 Tampa Bay's Claire Farrow and Jordan Highsmith contributed to this report.

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