South Lake Minnetonka police went to check on the family at 12:21 p.m. Thursday after no one was seen or heard from in days, Interim Chief Mike Siitari told The Associated Press. Siitari wouldn't release any information on how the family members died but said there appeared to be "no threat or danger to the community."
The children had not been in school for the past two days, Siitari said. The request to check on the family came from a co-worker of the father, he said.
Authorities did not release the identities of those killed, but the father's business posted a notice online identifying Brian Short and his family as the victims.
Siitari said the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office was processing a "complex crime scene."
"Obviously it's an extremely tragic event and it's going to take some time to sort through," he said.
Aerial footage from KSTP-TV showed an upscale home in Greenwood, a village of about 700 people on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, about 20 miles west of Minneapolis. At the scene, police officers had sealed off Channel Drive, a wooded cul de sac leading toward St. Alban's Bay on the lake. A sign at the entrance to the cul de sac read "Children playing." The family's house wasn't visible beyond the police line.
Hennepin County property databases list the house as registered to Brian and Karen Short. Brian Short is the founder of AllNurses.com, a resource portal for nurses. An online biography at the site said Short lived outside Minneapolis with his wife and three children.
The biography describes Short as a one-time nursing student and entrepreneur who built and launched the website in the late 1990s when he couldn't find nursing-related information online.
An administrator of AllNurses.com posted a notice Thursday night saying that the family had been killed and calling it "a very tragic loss for the extended families, friends, co-workers, and this nursing community."
A man who answered the phone at AllNurses.com declined to comment and hung up.
Neighbor Doug Plocek returned to his home Thursday to find the street blocked by police cars.
Plocek, who spoke to several media outlets, said he was shocked to learn of the deaths. He said the family was always friendly and said he used to see the children walking along their quiet street with friends.
"They were good neighbors," Plocek told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "This whole thing, we're trying to wrap our heads around it."