Murder-suicide suspected in death of Arkansas professor, two others
James Wilbanks (University of Arkansas - Little Rock website)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark (Reuters) - A university professor, his wife and his sister were found shot to death on Friday night in the family’s burning home in a prosperous Little Rock suburb, Arkansas authorities said.

“The initial indication is murder-suicide, but it’s an open investigation so I can’t comment beyond that,” Captain Jim Hansard of the Maumelle, Arkansas police department, said on Saturday.

Maumelle is a city of 18,000 located across the Arkansas River from Little Rock, the state capital.

The dead included Dr. James Wilbanks, 41, a professor of management at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Also shot to death were his wife, 27-year-old Tatiana Wilbanks, and his sister Elizabeth Wilbanks, 31. The three shared the home.

Firefighters discovered the bodies when they were called to the burning residence about 10:00 p.m. CST. A female victim was found near the entry and a second female body was found in a bedroom, authorities said. The professor's body was in the living room. A firearm was recovered at the scene.

The bodies of two dogs that also had been shot to death were discovered as well, authorities said.

Hansard said police believe the fire was deliberately set.

Maumelle police said the only record of any previous problem at the home was when James Wilbanks called police last year to complain about a neighbor’s barking dog.

(Reporting by Steve Barnes in Little Rock, Ark.; Editing by Carey Gillam and Chizu Nomiyama)