WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — The family of Ethel Steele is speaking out after the mother and her three children were found dead.

Officers responded to a report of a shooting at a home on Brookhill Drive around 11:54 a.m. Tuesday. Inside, officers found Ethel Syretha Steele, 40, of Winston-Salem, dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Her children — 9-year-old Sakendra Syann Steele, 12-year-old Sakenya Syretha Steele and 14-year-old Sakenlo Shawn Steele Jr. — were also found dead from apparent gunshot wounds. Police described the investigation as a “homicide.”

On Wednesday, Ethel Steele’s aunt Wanda Caton spoke on behalf of the family, asking the public to respect the family’s privacy and expressing their shock.

“Right now the family still has more questions than answers as to what led to this,” Caton said. “She was a sweet caring mother who loved her children, and, as a nurse, she cared for her family and her patients from the bottom of her heart. This was not representative of the Ethel that we know, her friends know, her teachers know.”

Caton allowed the media to see Ethel Steele’s degrees: a bachelor of science in nursing from Winston-Salem State University, a bachelor of arts from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, and two certificates of completion from Forsyth Technical Community College for completing the Paralegal Technology Litigation and Family Law curricula. She added that Ethel Steele worked as a nurse with Novant Health and as a traveling nurse.

“What drove this scene, we don’t know, but we ask, from the bottom of our hearts, let the police do their jobs,” Caton said. “Don’t have the rumors going. If you don’t know her, don’t make a comment. That will help make things easier for everyone, and I thank you for just understanding that Ethel was a beautiful, well-educated, loving mother, loving sister, loving daughter, who took care to the utmost of her children.”

Officials on scene at Brookhill Drive in Winston-Salem

Steele lived at the home alone with her three children, raising them as a single parent, the family said. She had been homeschooling her children since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. They estimated that the family had lived in the home for about three years.

“The kids were outgoing,” said Dmon Robinson, Ethel Steele’s brother. “We have a cheerleader. We have an artist, also an anime artist.”

Caton said the family traveled extensively, including trips to Hawaii, California, and New Orleans.

They had just gotten back from Florida on Friday, Robinson said, which is also the last time he had spoken to his sister.

“She was fine. I mean, this was so unexpected,” he said. “I feel like I’m in a nightmare and I can’t wake up. It’s the only sister I have. That’s my baby sister.”

Neighbors react

Neighbors tell FOX8 they didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary this morning, but that all changed when a call came in around noon reporting a shooting that killed four people.

“This happened in my neighborhood. You don’t want to see this. You see this on the news, and…it is another neighborhood. For it to happen here in our neighborhood, is very concerning. It’s close to home,” Angela Terrill said.

A memorial was set up with stuffed animals at the home’s mailbox.

Police say there is no threat to the neighborhood, and they are not searching for any suspects.