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Father wrote of family love, but clues suggest he left them to die
Father left a note before he set fire, but the question remains
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff

Investigators carry bags from the Crime Scene Command Unit to another vehicle on Wednesday afternoon in front of the board up house.

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Investigators carry bags from the Crime Scene Command Unit to another vehicle on Wednesday afternoon in front of the board up house.

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Investigators carry bags from the Crime Scene Command Unit to another vehicle on Wednesday afternoon in front of the board up house.

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Investigators carry bags from the Crime Scene Command Unit to another vehicle on Wednesday afternoon in front of the board up house.

 

George LeClaire | Staff Photographer

Investigators prepare to enter the home Wednesday morning. One investigator walks past a memorial set up against a tree on the west side of the burned-out house.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Investigators wearing rubber gloves and masks leave the home with bags of evidence which will be looked at later.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

A line of investigators walk toward the burned-out house preparing to go inside.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

An investigator carries away bags marked "evidence."

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Onlookers pass by the home Wednesday morning, still circled with police tape.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Garrett FInnerty and his father, Kevin

 

ABC 7 Chicago

Patricia Finnerty

 

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Published: 6/3/2009 3:18 PM | Updated: 6/4/2009 2:38 PM

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One hand held the pen, but two very different men wrote Kevin Finnerty's suicide note.

The first deeply loved his wife, Patricia, and three kids. The other suffered from financial problems and intended to kill himself and his entire family.

"There were some indications he wanted to take his whole family with him," said Cmdr. Ken Galinski of the Arlington Heights Police Department. "But he also mentioned how much he loved his family. None of it makes any sense."

In the end Finnerty's darker side won out. His white-picket fence, his minivan, his art, his friends - none of it mattered.

Early Tuesday, Finnerty, 46, put his suicide note and his final will safely on the garage floor so it wouldn't be burned. Then he started a fire that would kill himself, his wife and 11-year-old son, Garrett.

And police say he knew exactly what he was doing.

Although police aren't releasing the exact wording of the suicide note, they believe Finnerty knew his life wouldn't be the only one lost - that he intended to harm his entire family.

The handwritten note didn't blame a specific person. It was a couple of pages long and not addressed to anyone in particular.

"He mentioned not getting enough work as an artist," Galinski said.

Finnerty did not mention any other problems, and the couple wasn't having marital problems that police knew of, Galinski said.

While police won't ever know what was going on inside Finnerty's mind, they can piece together his final actions. They found a plastic gasoline can in Finnerty's master bedroom.

"We are sending samples of the carpet and bedding to a lab, but at this point it appears he poured the gasoline on the floor," Galinski said.

The house, he said, showed no signs of anything other than a normal family life. A half-full glass of wine and a laptop computer sat on the dining room table. There were no empty bottles of liquor. No drug paraphernalia.

Police don't know where Finnerty got the gasoline, but Galinski said they believe it was bought some time ago.

Firefighters called the fire suspicious soon after they extinguished the blaze at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, remarking on the burn patterns they found in the house. There was no sign of forced entry. Most of the fire was contained to the second floor.

Kevin Finnerty died at 4:40 a.m. Wednesday at Loyola University Medical Center, with burns over 100 percent of his body. His cause of death was listed as thermal burns.

Finnerty was found in the kitchen on the first floor. He may have been trying to leave, but the front door was locked.

"He was pretty burned," Galinski said. "If he was trying to leave, I'm not sure we'll ever know."

Patricia, 41, was declared dead at the scene in the early morning hours Tuesday, after firefighters found her body in the master bedroom. The medical examiner's office said her death resulted from smoke inhalation, and police aren't sure if she ever woke up.

Their son, Garrett, 11, was still alive in his bedroom after the fire, but he died shortly later at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, also from smoke inhalation.

Two other children, Bridgit, 12, and Pierce, 6, escaped with no major injuries, after Bridgit got herself and her little brother out of the house onto the roof over the front door, from where she jumped down 10 feet and ran for help.

The children were treated and released from Northwest Community Hospital and are now staying with their mother's sister.

The Cook County medical examiner's office will conduct toxicology tests on all three victims. Those results could take weeks, Galinski said.

Fire: Investigators trying to piece together events