Doctor Kills 3 Girls, Then Takes Own Life -- Relatives Say Looming Child-Custody Fight Drove `Controlling' Husband To Take Fatal Action

PORTLAND - Neighbors say Dr. David Cornwall loved his three young daughters. According to his family, he loved control as well.

And when his crumbling marriage threatened to take his children away, Cornwall took control, killing the little girls and then himself.

Cornwall's estranged wife discovered her daughters yesterday, dead in their beds at their grandmother's house. Cornwall, 45, was found in the garage behind the wheel of his idling car, dead of apparent carbon-monoxide poisoning.

Cornwall had offices in the coastal towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside, where he had lived with his wife, Karen, and daughters Lauren, 9; Ashley, 5; and Caitlin, 4.

Karen Cornwall, 43, had filed for divorce and wanted her husband to have only limited visitation. She had moved with the children to Lake Oswego, not far from her mother-in-law's house in suburban Portland.

The girls had been on a visit with their father, staying at his mother's home while she and her husband went on vacation, said Multnomah County sheriff's spokeswoman Barbara Simon.

The girls had gone to a park with their father and were supposed to be dropped off Wednesday at their mother's house.

"Karen went there that night wanting to know why the girls hadn't been brought back and David told her they were asleep," said Cornwall's brother, George.

She tried to talk to Lauren, but couldn't wake the girl up. Assuming the girl was just very sleepy, she left, her brother-in-law said.

He said he and Karen Cornwall each called the house yesterday morning but got no answer. She went to the house about 7 a.m.

Police told the family that no weapons were found, and that the doctor apparently used drugs to kill his daughters, George Cornwall said. Autopsies were scheduled for today.

In divorce papers filed in April, Karen Cornwall said she and her daughters were subjected to "physical, verbal and psychological abuse" by her husband.

She said her husband once held 5-year-old Ashley out of a second-floor window when she wouldn't stop crying. She also said her husband once cut her contraceptive diaphragm into pieces to force her to have another child, The Oregonian reported.

Karen Cornwall said her husband made her keep a list of things to do for him.

"I am to give him five kisses a day, hugs, tell him I love him and write him love notes," she said in the affidavit. "If I do all these things, I get stars placed on my list. If I don't, he explodes."

Cornwall's response said he was an excellent father who made breakfast for his children, went to parent-teacher conferences, built tree forts and baked birthday cakes. He accused his wife of trying to run him over with her car.

George Cornwall said his brother was trying to start over. He had put his two clinics up for sale and talked about moving to New Zealand.

"Karen was hoping for a reconciliation, but she felt smothered by my brother's domination," he said.

"He was basically a pretty sweet guy, but like a lot of physicians, it comes as a surprise to them that other people have hopes and aspirations," George Cornwall said. "He was really into control, I guess."