Police believe a 63-year-old man fatally shot his 86-year-old mother, then himself, outside a Des Moines home earlier this week.

The shootings may have occurred more than a day before the bodies were found Wednesday morning outside the home near Fourth Avenue South and South 213th Street, said Commander Mike Graddon with the Des Moines Police Department. An acquaintance of the family had come to check on the mother and son and called 911 when she found the bodies.

Police found a suicide note they say was written by the son, as well as a handgun in his hand, Graddon said. They are investigating the deaths as a murder-suicide.

One neighbor, James Lockhart, said he was gardening in the morning and didn’t hear anything unusual until a woman yelled at him from across the street, asking for the address so she could call 911. He went over and said he saw a man lying on the ground and an “old, frail woman” sitting slouched over in a chair.

Lockhart, who has lived in the area for 20 years, said the house where the shootings occurred had been empty for several years, after an elderly woman living there moved out because she was no longer able to live on her own.

He said the woman’s son had been taking care of the house, occasionally coming over to mow the lawn. He said he thought the dead man he saw appeared to be the same man. He hadn’t noticed any kind of trouble in recent years, and said the neighborhood is usually quiet, he said.

How to find help

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or have concerns about someone else who may be, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will be routed to a local crisis center where professionals can talk you through a risk assessment and provide resources in your community. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/