Sheffield firefighters approach the Karpinski home on Home Road on the morning of March 13, 2019, where five people were found to have died. Photo: Ed Harvey

Karpinski killed wife and children before setting fire to their home, recent documents say

Sheffield — Luke Karpinski went on a violent rampage, killing his wife and their three children before setting the family home on fire and dying voluntarily of smoke inhalation and “thermal injuries,” according to death certificates recently released by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The new documents shed some additional light on the bizarre and grisly crime that shook the town of Sheffield and the region last March, when first-responders arrived in the early morning hours at the scene of the reported fire at the Karpinski residence on Home Road.

Luke Karpinski (Facebook)

Search warrants and affidavits issued shortly after the bodies of the family members were found a little before 8 a.m. on March 13, 2019, in their Sheffield home were unsealed in June, revealing that Karpinski, 41, likely killed his wife, Justine Wilbur, by slitting her throat the day before setting their house on fire and committing suicide by remaining inside the home. But the timing and precise manner in which the children were killed remained a mystery until now.

The three young children — 7-year-old twins Alex and Zoe, along with Marek, 4 — were found dead in the second-floor master bedroom, the entrance of which was barricaded by furniture. Their bodies were “huddled together” and “badly damaged by the fire,” police said.

The death certificates recently filed in Sheffield Town Hall list the dates of death for all five members of the family as March 13, though the obituary listed the date of death for Wilbur and her children as March 12. The death certificates also reveal the cause of death of the children. Previously the cause was unclear, with authorities saying only that their bodies were found dead in the second-floor master bedroom, the entrance of which was barricaded by furniture.

Justine Wilbur. Photo courtesy Hoffman Warnick

Their bodies were “huddled together” and “badly damaged by the fire,” last year’s affidavits said, so it was unclear whether they died as a result of the fire or had been attacked earlier. However, death certificates made public this week say all three died by “violence of uncertain etiology” and the manner of the deaths was listed as homicide. Smoke inhalation, listed as a cause of death of their father, was not mentioned in their death certificates, which is clearly an indication that the children had died before the fire began.

Arriving firefighters found Wilbur dead on the first floor in what appeared to be a “utility/furnace room.” Firefighters could smell gasoline. One found a near-empty gas can in the front yard. The death certificate said Wilbur died from “sharp force injury of the neck.”

Two family dogs, both dead, were found in a bathroom closet. Two 20-pound propane tanks were also found. Karpinski’s body was in a third-floor loft accessible by a ladder and was “in a bed apparently lying down,” police stated. Alcohol bottles, a knife and a lighter were also found near his body.

Shortly after the tragedy, Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington pronounced the event a murder-suicide with Karpinski the sole assailant. She said Karpinski killed his wife and children and intentionally set fire to the home before committing suicide. She added that there was no evidence of outside involvement.

Two Berkshire County Sheriff’s deputies confer at the intersection of Home Road and Cross Road March 13, 2019, as television news crews wait for more information. Photo: Terry Cowgill

Wilbur, 41, was a patent attorney at the Albany firm of Hoffman Warnick. Karpinski worked from home as a patent examiner. The couple, high school sweethearts from Dalton and 1996 graduates of Wahconah High School, had recently built a home on the property at 1343 Home Road after moving back to Berkshire County from Virginia.

The couple had been married for almost 20 years. There were indications in the search warrants and affidavits that there had been domestic discord and that Wilbur had threatened to leave her husband. A prescription bottle in Wilbur’s name for oxycodone, a powerful and highly addictive opioid often prescribed as a painkiller, was found inside the home.

Wilbur’s Subaru hatchback was found halfway down the driveway with the keys inside. In addition to her cell phone and laptop computer, inside the car was a storage box containing “miscellaneous family related financial paperwork.” In a pocketbook on the front passenger seat was Karpinski’s wallet containing $191, police said.

The only documents left to be released are the autopsy results and, reportedly, a redacted 1,000-page police report. The Edge asked the DA’s office when those documents will be released. Spokesman Andy McKeever said he was reluctant to put an exact date on the release: “But we are collating and redacting the documents now. We expect to have everything together in the coming weeks.”