Wendy LaFleche and her two young children were slain as they lay sleeping in their beds, police said yesterday.


The 41-year-old Aurora woman, her daughter Victoria, 7, and son Jesse, 3, died early Sunday, shortly before police received a call from her estranged husband.


An hour later, he was arrested after a high-speed chase up Highway 400 that ended in Barrie's north end.


"It's fair to say it was a gruesome discovery," York Region police Insp. Tony Cusimano said yesterday.


"When there are children involved, it's never a pleasant situation. The children were in their room ... in their bedroom where children are supposed to be in the middle of the night and early morning hours, sleeping in their beds."


Devon Brisborne, the dead woman's 16-year-old son from a previous relationship, was staying with friends at the time of the bloodbath in the two-storey home just north of Aurora's downtown core.


John LaFleche, a 40-year-old employee of a Toronto trucking company, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder, an indication police believe the slayings were planned.


Wearing a white jailhouse jumpsuit, he looked dishevelled yesterday in a brief appearance in Newmarket court. Long, stringy hair hung in his face as he was remanded in custody until a video link hearing next Monday.


Friends said John LaFleche had moved out of the family home a month ago and said the couple was planning to split up for good.


Cusimano said he was allowed to return to the home on weekends and had stayed there the night before the attacks.


Although police had been called to the home in 2003 because of property damage, there was no restraining order to prevent him from going to the home, Cusimano said.


He said police were alerted to the killings in a telephone call from John LaFleche that led them to the Yonge St. home.


`As tragic as these events have been, York Region remains a safe and a caring community'


Chief Armand La Barge,


York Region police


The triple slaying marked the second time in less than a week that a Greater Toronto parent has been arrested in the deaths of their children. Sivananthi Elango, 30, of Markham, was charged with first-degree murder in last Thursday's slayings of her children Renu, 2, and 3-month-old Movlika.


"We are a community in mourning," York Chief Armand La Barge said yesterday.


"As tragic as these events have been, York Region remains a safe and a caring community. We are a close-knit community that responds to these tragic incidents with kindness, with compassion and with empathy."


He said relatives of Wendy LaFleche "have struggled to come to grips with the incredible tragedy that has befallen this family.


"What they've asked for is some time to absorb their pain and their agony here and some privacy as they deal with this particular situation."


La Barge also read a statement from the family in which they said they are "grieving the loss of a daughter, sister and friend as well as the loss of two grandchildren, two precious and innocent young lives.


"We appreciate the support and offers of help we have received from friends and members of the community," the statement continued.


"We know they will respect our request for privacy."


Det. Const. Kevin Neill of York's domestic violence unit called the two recent incidents of family killings an aberration.


"When these things happen, it's a tragedy and it catches you off guard," he said, adding police were unaware of any domestic violence involved in the Aurora incident.


"Only about 30 per cent of victims of domestic violence ever report this to police," he said. "So if we have no previous involvement with the family, there's no way for us to prevent in 70 per cent.


"Even if we are involved, there's no guarantee that our efforts are going to succeed in preventing this from happening. There is so much that is not in our hands as police in regards to the intervention of domestic violence.


"It is frustrating."