Police officers checking the welfare of residents at a home in the west metro city of Greenwood on Thursday came upon a scene their chief called "unspeakable" — the bodies of five family members, including three teenagers.

The five bodies bore traumatic injuries and were scattered throughout the large house on Channel Drive. The deaths appeared to be a multiple murder-suicide, said South Lake Minnetonka interim Police Chief Mike Siitari.

The family — a father, mother and three teenagers — had not been seen for a couple of days at work or school, and the father's co-workers had asked police to check on them, he said.

"This is a complex crime scene" that will take several days to sort through, Siitari said.

He declined to release the victims' names, ages, or manner of death, or to say who might have been the killer. But a notice on the father's work website said that the victims were the home's owners, Brian and Karen Short, and their three children.

The home, built in 1998, is near Lake Minnetonka's St. Albans Bay. It last sold in September 2011 for $2 million to the Shorts, according to Hennepin County property records. The couple's three children, Cole, 17; Madison, 15, and Brooklyn, 14, all attended Minnetonka High School.

Brian Short, a nurse, founded the website AllNurses.com, which provides information and resources for and about the nursing profession. His business is headquartered in Excelsior.

An administrator of the AllNurses.com website posted this message Thursday night:

"It is with great regret and a very heavy heart that I have to share some very sad news with you. There is no easy way to say this. … Brian and his family have been killed. The news is calling it an apparent murder-suicide. … No matter what the details are, the results are still the same … a very tragic loss for the extended families, friends, co-workers and this nursing community."

Comments poured into the site, including one that said: "Brian created something with allnurses.com that has left a positive impact on the nursing profession and the future of nursing. He will be remembered with deep respect for his role in that."

Karen Short's brother and Brian Short's older brother said the family wasn't ready to talk about the tragedy, while friends wrestled with the shock.

They will all be missed

"I can't even fathom it," said Kathy Lausche, who became friends with the family when they lived in Lakeville. "They were just your normal, typical family," she said. "Their lives revolved around their kids."

Brian and Karen Short were "at every single soccer game," said Toni Plante.

So it seemed odd Tuesday when she didn't see Brooklyn Short on the field or her parents on the sidelines for the soccer game on the first day of school. She later learned from her daughter, Ana, that Brooklyn, a high school freshman, wasn't at school.

"Brooklyn is a really good student, and it wouldn't be like her to miss the first day of school," Plante said.

On Wednesday evening, Plante said she texted Karen Short to ask if Brooklyn was all right. She never heard back.

"This is just too sad," she said. "They were the nicest people in the world. There was nothing snooty about them at all. They were just down to earth."

Brooklyn was just the "sweetest girl. So inquisitive. A darling girl," Plante said. She and her daughter were talking last week about how neither girl liked to dress up. "They figured they should wear grubby clothes and go to homecoming together."

Plante realized she would have to break the awful news to her daughter. "This is going to be tough."

"It's just shocking," said Jeff Bergsten, a neighbor of the Shorts when they lived in Lakeville. The family sometimes returned to their old neighborhood for parties and graduations.

"[Brian Short] was a real generous guy with his time and conversation," Bergsten said. Short was a Green Bay Packers fan who had a successful Internet business and could talk about any subject.

Karen Short was "a lovely lady," said former Lakeville neighbor Tami Scribner. "She was just laid back and her smile was always there."

Neighbor Doug Plocek found police cars blocking his street when he came home Thursday and heard that there was a death in the Shorts' house, then an update that it was the whole family.

"The neighbors went into shock," he said. "To me, there was no indication whatsoever how that could have happened."

He said Brian Short always appeared happy, easily greeting neighbors and sharing his love of cars, particularly Teslas. Plocek said he often saw Short clearing snow in the winter or saw the children walking with friends on their quiet street, which has only nine houses on it.

"They were good neighbors," he said. "This whole thing, we're trying to wrap our heads around it."

Of the neighborhood, Plocek said, "We've never even had a break-in. To have something of this magnitude and it involves children — it just tears me apart."

As evening fell, investigators from the South Lake Minnetonka police and Hennepin County Sheriff's Office continued their work at the scene. The Hennepin County medical examiner's office will conduct autopsies.

Scanner conversations between police and dispatchers indicated that all the victims appeared to have died of severe injuries.

After entering the home, officers found a small dog, then began a search and discovered the bodies, one by one, in different areas of the house.

The extent of the horror unfolded over several minutes as officers went from room to room.

One victim was found in a bedroom, a second in the basement garage, two others in the basement and the last in a lower-level bedroom.

Siitari said he had never seen a scene so grim in his three decades of police work, and that it was extremely difficult for the officers involved.

"There are no words to describe it. … It's a tragedy," he said. "This is a tough one to handle."

kelly.smith@startribune.com 612-673-4141

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