DUNCAN, Okla. - The publisher of a weekly newspaper in rural Oklahoma, his wife and teenage daughter were found dead inside their home Monday morning.
Local and state police are investigating but have revealed few details about the deaths of John and Katherine "Tinker" Hruby and their daughter, also named Katherine.
Stephens County District Attorney Jason Hicks said the case is being treated "like a homicide." He did not elaborate, and officials would not characterize the nature of the family's deaths.
“At this time we’re not going to rule out anything,” said Duncan Police Detective Donny Foraker.
John Hruby, 50, was publisher of The Marlow Review, a weekly newspaper in a town of about 4,000 people, located 10 miles north of Duncan.
The couple's daughter, Katherine, 17, was a junior and volleyball player at Duncan High School, according to neighbors and classmates.
The Hrubys also have a son, Alan, who graduated Duncan High School last spring and attends the University of Oklahoma, according to family friends.
Alan Hruby was being held in Stephens County jail Monday night on an unrelated charge related to stolen checks, Foraker said.
John and Tinker Hruby veered from their routines last Friday, police said. They didn’t show up for work at the newspaper, and John Hruby didn’t cover the Marlow High School football game.
A housekeeper called 911 about 9 a.m. Monday, said Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford. Officers converged and cordoned off the Hrubys' home in Duncan.
Authorities said little about what might have happened, and at first didn't even identify the victims. Rather, it was The Marlow Review that announced the deaths in a post to its website Monday afternoon under the headline "Please pray with us":
"At this time, The Marlow Review asks the general public for prayers following the tragic deaths of John Hruby, our publisher, his wife, Tinker, and their daughter, Katherine. Our staff endeavors to continue to serve Marlow to the best of our ability going forward. Thank you."
Meanwhile, outside the family's two-story brick home in the affluent Timber Creek subdivision on Duncan's north side, a half-dozen police officers in uniform and plainclothes moved in and out throughout the afternoon.
At one point, a detective and police officer examined a surveillance camera mounted on the west corner of the home. Later a uniformed officer was seen carrying out what appeared to be a DVR.
People in the area described the Hrubys as the kind of neighbors who helped jump-start a car or corral a missing dog.
"You're always surprised when it happens in your neighborhood," said Larry Bartlett, an oil company executive who lives across the street.
Alan Hruby, 19, pleaded guilty on Jan. 2 to a charge of credit card theft. The case arose from his use a credit card from his grandmother, Janis Hruby, according to the Duncan Banner.
Court records show he entered a delayed sentencing program, owed $491.15 in fines and court costs, and was due to appear before District Judge Joe Enos on Nov. 12.
At a prayer vigil in the Duncan High School parking lot on Monday night, friends recalled that volleyball season was a family affair for the Hrubys.
Only a junior, Katherine was already a member of the school's varsity squad. Her father was team photographer.
And her mother, whom everyone knew as "Tinker," was a booster club officer renowned for her delicious jambalaya - the team's favorite dish, said Coach Sandy Mitchell.
Tinker Hruby was also the team's loudest fan.
“That was the only voice I could hear in the stands,” Mitchell said.
Students, still stunned by the news during Monday's vigil, remembered Katherine as a vivacious young woman who always brought a smile to others' faces, even during their worst moments.
“She really liked bugs,” recalled friend Carly Kirkland, a senior on the volleyball team.
Katherine would chase teammates with bugs, and her coach with a gecko, until they fled into the bathroom to escape the practical joker.
She was also a fierce competitor who would wave a white towel during games, encouraging on her teammates when she wasn’t on the court.
Kirkland said she'd known Katherine since they were young girls living down the street from one another.
“She was such a good person and such good friend to all of us,” Kirkand said. “She always had a smile on her face even when she had every reason not to."
The family's deaths shocked residents of this community a little more than a year after Duncan made international headlines for a case involving the thrill killing of an Australian baseball player.
Christopher Lane, 22, was in town visiting his girlfriend in August 2013 and out for a run when he was gunned down by teenagers in a passing car. Two still await trail on murder charges, while two others were charged as accessories.
Residents of nearby Marlow were stunned by the Hrubys' deaths, as well.
"Any small town is made that much better by having a paper. To own a newspaper takes a dedicated person like John," said said City Administrator Jason McPherson. "This cuts deep. It's a gut-wrenching time."
John Hruby was a former publisher of The Duncan Banner, succeeding his later father, Al Hruby. The Hruby family sold the Banner in 1997.
The Hrubys bought the Marlow Review in 2007 and the Comanche County Chronicle, in Elgin, Okla., in 2013.
John Hruby was elected vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association in June, said Mark Thomas, the group's executive vice president. His father had served as president of the group in 1995.
Thomas said John Hruby was a skilled computer technician who could fix anything electronic, and an avid pilot who owned a Beechcraft Bonanza airplane at the Duncan Airport.
"He always wanted to be a commercial pilot," said Thomas. "But he grew up in a newspaper family, and that became his priority."
That connection is what led Hruby, less than a decade after leaving The Banner, to buy the paper in nearby Marlow.
"He had an itch to get back in," said Thomas. "He missed having a voice in a community. When you grow up in the family newspaper business, the heartbeat of a town gets in your blood. He wanted to get re-engaged."
Details for this story were reported by Steve Olafson, Rachel Snyder, John McKelvey and Joel Dean of the Duncan Banner, and CNHI Oklahoma reporter Janelle Stecklein.