MERRILLVILLE — Students and staff at Miller Elementary School mourned the loss of a treasured teacher Monday after the teacher's son fatally shot his parents and then killed himself.
Olga Meeks, 65, and her husband, John Meeks, 66, each died from a gunshot wound at their home in the 3600 block of West 79th Avenue, according to the Lake County coroner's office.
Their mentally ill son, Eric Meeks, 34, who lived with them, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
Merrillville police were called to the home about 9 p.m. for a well-being check after Olga Meeks missed a planned visit with relatives Saturday night.
"They said that was unlike her to do that, and when they didn't hear from her, they called for a well-being check (Sunday night)," Merrillville Police Cmdr. Jeff Rice said.
When officers arrived at the home, they found the garage door up and discovered Olga Meeks' husband, John, dead inside, Rice said.
Officers secured the scene, went inside and found Olga Meeks dead upstairs. Eric Meeks' body was found beside her, Rice said.
There was no indication of a struggle.
"Neighbors never heard or saw anything," he said.
A revolver was recovered at the scene, and all spent rounds were accounted for, he said. The ownership of the weapon remains under investigation.
The street where the three family members lived remained quiet Monday morning, with the exception of idling Chicago broadcast media trucks.
A blue car sat in the driveway of the family home on the northwest corner of Hendricks Street and West 79th Avenue. Neighbors did not answer knocks at their doors.
A motive for the shootings was not yet known Monday morning. Rice said the deaths may have occurred sometime Saturday.
Rice said Eric Meeks had a history of mental illness and lived in a residential facility in Hobart operated by Regional Mental Health Center.
An officer was stationed at that facility Monday morning, and detectives planned to conduct interviews there later in the day, Rice said.
Olga Meeks worked as a substitute teacher in the past and most recently as a reading aide at Miller Elementary School in Merrillville, school officials said Monday.
"The Merrillville Community School Corporation has tragically lost a beloved colleague," a statement issued by the school district said.
"Olga touched the lives of hundreds of children throughout the years and has been a vital member of the Miller Elementary staff."
Miller Principal Jennifer Griffin said Olga Meeks was "a true asset to the Miller family."
"Her love for the students and staff was evident the moment she walked through the doors," Griffin said. "She was always willing and eager to do whatever was needed at any time. She will be dearly missed by us all."
Griffin said social workers and counselors would be on hand all week at the school to assist students and staff members with the grieving process.
Gary native Renetta DuBois, a former reporter and anchor for Lakeshore Television, said Olga Meeks was an elementary school teacher of hers who became a friend.
"She was the sweetest person," DuBois said. "Very soft spoken, very calm and calming."
Olga Meeks taught Spanish at the former David L. Duncan Elementary School in Gary — now the Frankie W. McCullough Academy for Girls — across from the Delaney Community public housing complex, DuBois said.
"I could tell she genuinely cared about teaching us," DuBois said. "This was an all-black school and there was no difference between her and any of us, she treated everyone the same. She went out of her way to make sure we all excelled."
DuBois said she often turned to Olga Meeks for help, even in her broadcasting career.
"Even as an adult, when I was working for Lakeshore, I'd call her to verify Spanish pronunciations before I'd go on air," DuBois said.
DuBois said Olga Meeks was friends with her mother, Debra Parr of Gary, who worked with her at the school.
DuBois, Parr and Olga Meeks often attended movies together, with Meeks choosing dark chocolate — her favorite — as a movie theater candy.
Parr was supposed to go to a festival to see Oscar-nominated movies with Olga Meeks on Saturday, DuBois said.
DuBois, who is currently a reporter and anchor for WJBF News Channel 6 in Augusta, Georgia, said she and her mother were not aware their friend's son had mental health issues.
"She was very private about that," DuBois said.
Nick Meyer, director of external communications for NIPSCO, said John Meeks was an employee at the Bailly Generating Station in Chesterton.
"Our thoughts are with their family and friends during this difficult time," Meyer said.
Eric Meeks worked as a cook at Gary Sportsmen Club in Crown Point.
"It was a shock when I heard what happened this morning," said Dave Nanista, a chef who hired him.
Eric Meeks' last shift at the club was Friday night.
"He was in on Friday and walked out," Nanista said. "He had a list of things to complete and he seemed upset, didn't complete them and left."
Nanista said he was aware of Eric Meeks' mental health issues and often discussed them with him.
"We talked a lot about some of the troubles he had," Nanista said. "He was coming along. Sometimes, when he'd leave upset, I'd call and talk to him at home and he always appreciated that."
Nanista characterized Eric Meeks as "a great worker."
"He always looked forward to coming to work and we looked forward to having him," he said. "He showed up every day for work. There were a couple of times my kids had to come with me when I had to cater some events and the kids loved him. He was great with kids."
Nanista said Erik Meeks appeared just recently to be thinking about future endeavors.
"He was very involved in the Knights of Columbus, and he talked about using some of my recipes for events with them," Nanista said. "He was very forward thinking at that time."