STE-CHRISTINE, Que. - Just last week, Patrick Desautels was sharing the joy of his son's fourth birthday at a family gathering with all three of his children in a local restaurant in rural Quebec.
On Tuesday, Desautels was back in the same eatery in Ste-Christine, but this time he was contemplating the tragic deaths of the three kids.
''I'd like to thank everyone who have banded together to help us — myself and my family — in this terrible ordeal," Desautels said as he read from a prepared statement. "The pain we are experiencing is inexplicable."
His comments lasted less than a minute and Desautels said he could say little more because of the ongoing police investigation.
The children were found dead on Sunday at their mother's home under what police are calling suspicious circumstances.
Police have not yet confirmed how Loic, two-year-old Anais and five-year-old Laurelie died.
Josee Desgranges owns Resto Entre-Amy, the restaurant where Desautels, his new girlfriend and the three children congregated under joyous circumstances last Friday.
"Everybody was happy, they had poutines, the kids were very happy," Desgranges told The Canadian Press.
"The children came here very often so it's very sad."
She described the youngsters, who were often accompanied by their grandparents, as "nice, beautiful children who loved life."
A funeral will be held on Saturday afternoon at St-Andre's Church in nearby Acton Vale.
"Everyone is standing shoulder-to-shoulder to help the family," Ste-Christine Mayor Huguette St-Pierre-Beaulac said.
''People can't understand how such a tragedy can come about."
St-Pierre-Beaulac said townspeople have formed a committee to help the Desautels family, who own a tree nursery.
"They put in place help for these people right away, to help them and to raise money for them," she said.
Residents are being encouraged to donate at the local bank or at various locations around town.
People have also volunteered to help out at the nursery on a moment's notice.
St-Pierre-Beaulac said the Desautels family are very involved in the community.
Just a few weeks ago, they opened up their grounds to hold a local Christmas fair where the entire community was invited. The family also distribute vegetable baskets in the community.
"Whenever they are needed, they are always there to lend a helping hand," St-Pierre-Beaulac said.
"I think the population is in shock. I have grandchildren the same age as those children, so it touches me deeply."
Provincial police said there was little more to report on Tuesday. Investigators were still waiting to meet with the children's 33-year-old mother, who was listed in stable condition in hospital.
Police continued to call the woman an “important witness” who might be able to clear up what happened inside the Drummondville residence on Sunday.
"We're still waiting for the green light to meet with her," said Sgt. Claude Denis.
Autopsies on the three young victims were completed on Tuesday, Denis said.
But police did not reveal how the children died or where they were found exactly.
Ste-Christine is about 100 kilometres east of Montreal.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had an erroneous spelling for 'Laurelie'