According to authorities, the bodies of Thomas Harvey Nicholson, his wife, Iva -- both in their 80s -- and their 42-year-old daughter, Tina, were found inside a home at
2415 Overbrook Lane
around 8:15 a.m. Monday. A home health care provider that regularly visited the family discovered them.
Sanford police would not say who they believed was responsible for the deaths or whether a note was left with an explanation. Authorities have released few details in the case, but they said the victims were shot to death. The bodies were sent to the North Carolina Medical Examiner's Office in Chapel Hill for autopsies.
People who knew the family, however, said their situation might have been too overwhelming. The Nicholsons, who both were in failing health, cared for their daughter, who had Down syndrome. Iva Nicholson, investigators confirmed, was also bedridden.
Neighbors, like Bill Foster, said that Harvey Nicholson was too proud to ask for help.
"They were good people," Foster said. "Very good people."
Foster and family friend Beth Gurrero were stunned by the news and concerned for the family's surviving daughters, who live outside the area.
"We need all the prayers and good thoughts for their two daughters," Gurrero said. "It's going to be devastating."
The Nicholsons were well known in Sanford. Harvey Nicholson ran a cabinet shop. In 1967, Iva Nicholson started a school for special needs children as a result of their daughter's Down syndrome. The school merged into what is now the public school system's Floyd L. Knight School, where a picture of Iva Nicholson still hangs on the wall.
"Iva Nicholson was a woman with vision," said Mary Graham, a teacher at Floyd L. Knight. "She was a go-getter. That's what I remembered about her."
Graham was a teacher under Nicholson and said she still works at the school now because she was inspired by Iva Nicholson's vision.
"The loss cannot be described in words," Graham said.
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