Four members of a family, including two young children, were found dead inside a van that had been parked in a CVS parking lot in Garden Grove for several days, police said Friday.
The victims, who were believed to be homeless, were discovered at 8:34 p.m. Thursday at 12031 Brookhurst St., Garden Grove Police Lt. Carl Whitney said.
A homeless woman, who was acquainted with the family, reported she was walking in the parking lot past the white Honda van when she "smelled the fragrance of death and thought it was an animal in the bushes," Whitney said.
"She thought, 'I haven't seen this family in a couple of days, something's not right,' so she called us," Whitney said.
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The van had been backed into a parking stall near the far northeast corner of the shopping center's parking lot, Whitney said. Because the van's "tail pipe was within inches of a grass berm," investigators suspect the family fell victim to carbon monoxide poisoning as the vehicle was left running to heat up the family as they slumbered, Whitney said.
Investigators "preliminarily" have identified the victims, but are awaiting positive identification from the Orange County Coroner's Office, Whitney said. "It appears they were all sleeping the way they were positioned," Whitney said. "The kids were in pajamas."
The girl was nearly 2 and the boy was less than a year old, Whitney said.
"It's a tragedy for everyone involved," Whitney said.
Responding officers saw that the van had its windows covered with blankets and a sunscreen before finding the bodies of a man, a woman, a boy and a girl inside, Whitney said.