Outside the two-story cabin is a breathtaking, picture-postcard mountain vista. Inside, police and firemen found a scene of incomprehensible horror.

Outside, a wooden sled leans against the wall. Look hard at it, and somewhere behind the forest's silence you can almost hear the kids' winter shouts of glee.

Inside, just to the left of the smoke-damaged front door, a kitchen yesterday went from a place to provide sustenance to a place of death. A wife and mother died there.

Outside, a windmill, solar panels and two satellite dishes bear witness to handiness and self-reliance. So do a log peeler, four covered snowmobiles and two enormous snow-plow trucks, maybe 10 tons apiece, chained, greased and ready to go.

Inside, everything points to a mind that turned from self-reliance to self-loathing -- from method to mayhem.

Outside, Swiss Family Robinson. Inside, the worst that Stephen King could imagine.

Outside, there are still signs of children at play. Picnic tables dot the hillside. Yellow wildflowers, fluttering aspens and big jack pines abound.

Inside, the first responders found a 1-year-old baby in a crib, shot to death with a .45.

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Outside, magpies and mountain bluebirds zing back and forth. A couple of mule deer startle and jump downslope. An enormous jackrabbit hops leisurely across the drive.

Inside, there is only a smoke-blackened stillness.

Outside, the father shot his other two children, 4 and 6. And brought them inside, where he placed them on a bed next to the crib. 

Outside, Anaconda-Deer Lodge Detective Steve Barclay and Assistant Chief Bill Sather talk somberly about their horrible experience Sunday, of responding to a report that a man had killed his family and was threatening to kill himself. They could not approach the house because of the heat of the fire the man set, after he killed his family and called a friend to say he was about to kill himself. They had to wait for firefighters to come and extinguish the blaze. Then, entirely soon enough, they found horror.

Inside, after he started the cabin ablaze, after he made his telephone call, the man lay down with his dead children and shot himself.

On the outside, the family looked to have an idyllic existence.

On the inside, idyllic turned horrific.

How, and why, such a thing happens will forever live outside our comprehension.

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