BURLINGTON -- Dozens gathered on Thursday evening, June 2nd to remember a mother and son whose lives were taken in Burlington on May 14th. Officials with the Racine County Sheriff's Office on June 1st said this was an act of domestic violence, and they said 41-year-old Craig Lambert killed 43-year-old Kimberly Howe and her son, 17-year-old Nicholas Chaulkin. This case has been determined to have been a double homicide/suicide.
"Nick was that guy that you noticed when you walked through the door. To me, he was like a brother. I loved talking to him whether it was over text or in person," said Taylor Hummelt.
Hummelt said she knew Chaulkin was dealing with something at home.
"I knew when he wasn't smiling, I knew something was making him said," Hummelt said.
The Women's Resource Center hosted the vigil to remember Howe and her son. Nearly 50 people attended the vigil at Echo Park.
Racine County Sheriff's officials say the evidence in this case suggests Lambert caused the deaths of Howe and Chaulkin, and that Lambert was also responsible for a subsequent fire and explosion at the home on Ketterhagen Road in Burlington on May 14th.
"Unfortunately, Kimberly Howe and her son are the victims of the worst portions of a domestic violence encounter and that is a murder," Sheriff Schmaling said.
Friends and family members say there was a history of domestic violence between Lambert and Howe.
"A couple days ago before that, he did tell me they were going through something and were in a hotel-- and they had to save his mom from something," said Rebecca Lagoo, Nicholas Chaulkin's half sister. "He had a huge heart. I just loved him a whole lot."
Lagoo told FOX6 News she is a domestic violence survivor herself.
"We know in the work we do, the leaving is the most dangerous time. Before you end that relationship, reach out to domestic counselors," a Women's Resource Center representative said.
The Racine County Communications Center received a call regarding a house fire and explosion on Ketterhagen Road on May 14th.
Deputies responding to the home found it fully engulfed in flames. Initial reports indicated the house was potentially occupied at the time of the fire. But officials say the level of destruction after the explosion, and the advanced stage of the fire made survivability impossible.
Racine County Sheriff’s investigators determined early on the home was, in fact, occupied at the time of the fire and explosion -- and began a preliminary investigation into the cause of the fire.
Investigators were able to locate two deceased individuals in the home that were unable to be identified due to their injuries.
Those individuals were transferred to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office and subsequently identified through dental and DNA records as Nicholas Chaulkin and Craig Lambert.
Investigators then expanded their search efforts to locate any additional victims.
"We went back and we literally sifted, hand sifted through every ounce of evidence out there and became aware of there were human remains that we sent to our Crime Laboratory," Sheriff Schmaling said.
Those remains were positively identified through DNA as the remains of Kimberly Howe.
Sheriff Schmaling said Howe and Lambert were involved in an ongoing domestic dispute, which ended on May 14th.
"I believe whole-heartedly Craig Lambert killed and murdered Kimberly Howe and her son," Sheriff Schamling said.
Although the exact cause of the fire is unknown, investigators were able to determine that the cause of the fire involved foul play.
Witness statements obtained by investigators confirmed the home was on fire well before it exploded and reported seeing flames coming from the first floor.
Additionally, officials say evidence at the scene indicated an LP gas line in the basement had been intentionally removed -- allowing the home to fill with gas and explode upon introduction to an ignition source.
Investigators were also able to establish that Nicholas Chaulkin did not have any smoke in his lungs at the time of his autopsy -- indicating that he was deceased prior to the fire. Chaulkin also sustained a gunshot wound to the back of the head and investigators did locate a handgun.
Chaulkin's death was ruled as a homicide by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office.
The injuries sustained by Lambert and Howe in the fire were so severe that the medical examiner was unable to determine the exact manner of death. However, autopsy results did reveal the presence of smoke in Lambert's lungs which is consistent with him being alive after the fire began.
Investigators learned that as a result of the ongoing domestic dispute, Lambert was being kicked out of the home.
Howe and Lambert had been dating and living together for several years at the Ketterhagen address.
Prior to the fire and explosion, Howe had been staying at a hotel with her son Nicholas in order to get away from Lambert.
Additionally, investigators were able to establish that just prior to the fire and explosion, Kimberly Howe was on her way to the Ketterhagen address with her son Nicholas. Howe placed a phone call to a witness indicating that she was en route to ensure Lambert was packing his belongings and leaving the home, which was the final phone call placed by Howe concluding at 2:31 p.m. on the day of the fire.
The first reports of a fire at the Ketterhagen address came into the Racine County Communications Center 45 minutes later at 3:16 p.m.
Resources for victims of domestic violence:
Milwaukee Women's Center hotline numbers:
24-Hour Crisis Line: (414)671-6140
Domestic Violence Hotline: (414)933-2722
National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800)799-SAFE
Emergency shelter for domestic violence victims:
Milwaukee Women's Center's Shelter: (414)671-6140
Sojourner Family Peace Center: (414)933-2722
Waukesha Women's Center: (262)542-3828