Many questions still unanswered in suspected murder-suicide that left 4 dead in Fairbanks hotel

There are still more questions than answers about why police believe a young father shot and killed his infant daughter, wife and mother in a Fairbanks hotel room on Friday before killing himself.

But in the days after Emily McDonald, 22; Teagan Hutton, 8 weeks; and Linda Hutton, 54, were found dead alongside McKay Hutton, 22, in a room at a Hampton Inn, the contours of the young family's life are beginning to emerge.

One woman who employed Emily McDonald for five years said she is struggling to understand how a seemingly steady family life ended so violently.

Public records suggest McDonald grew up on military bases and lived for a time in Anchorage before settling in the Fairbanks area as a teenager.

Terry Gainer hired her at her small North Pole assisted-living home, the Lilley Lodge, nearly five years ago. She'd worked there ever since, an unusually long time in the field, according to Gainer.

"She was just golden," Gainer said in a phone interview Sunday.

McDonald, a certified nursing aide, had a gentle manner with the elderly and disabled residents of the home, Gainer said. Her job was to help them with bathing, meals and other daily activities.


"There was never a grumpy moment in her life," she said. "I often thought, 'I wish I could be like that.'"

McDonald hoped to one day become a registered nurse, Gainer said.  

According to state professional licensing records, Linda Hutton, McKay Hutton's mother, was herself a registered nurse.

McDonald was also raising a young son. Court records show she and a Fairbanks man went through child custody proceedings in 2015.

That fall, McDonald took some time off from work and returned with sudden news that she was married, Gainer said. She told her employer that she'd gone to school with her new husband and their paths had again crossed. She soon announced that she was pregnant.

"She said 'I'm so excited that I'm going to have a little girl,'" Gainer said.

McDonald had taken maternity leave after her baby was born. She was scheduled to return to work on Dec. 4, Gainer said.

Gainer said she met McKay Hutton only once, when he came in to pick up McDonald's paycheck. He chatted with Gainer and her business partner. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

Police offered no new details in the case Sunday. They are still investigating why the family was in the hotel room on the day after Thanksgiving. Both McKay Hutton and McDonald appear to have family in Fairbanks, and Gainer said she thought they'd been living in a "very cute little place" in North Pole, just 15 miles away from the Hampton Inn.

Police have also not revealed the identity of the male family member police found "crying in the hallway" of the hotel when the bodies were discovered. They said he is not a suspect and is not believed to have been in the room at the time of the killings.  

Fairbanks police spokeswoman Yumi McCulloch said police expect to release more information Monday.

Gainer said she's heartbroken and bewildered by the killings.

"We never know what goes on behind closed doors," she said.

Correction: This article originally incorrectly reported that Emily McDonald had gone through divorce proceedings with a man in Fairbanks. They had been involved in family court proceedings over child custody arrangements, not a divorce.