POLITICS
02/11/2012 11:33 EST | Updated 04/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Quebec man charged with murdering mother, 2 nieces in village east of Montreal

ST-ROMAIN, Que. - A 35-year-old Quebec man has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of his mother and his two young nieces.

Pascal Morin is accused of killing his 70-year-old mother and her two granddaughters, ages eight and 11, in a home in St-Romain, a village in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

Quebec provincial police were called to the residence around 6 p.m. Friday.

Investigators say Morin was arrested at the scene and taken in for questioning.

Martine Asselin, a spokeswoman for the police force, said Morin was charged in a Sherbrooke, Que. court Saturday afternoon.

Police haven't identified the victims and Asselin wouldn't disclose how they died, only saying it did not involve a gun.

News of the deaths spread quickly through the community of about 600.

"We are all shocked," said Michelle Lessard, owner of a local restaurant where residents had gathered Saturday.

"These are people we know well, and we like them a lot."

A neighbour, Gaetan Jacques, said he was taught by the woman when he was younger.

"This kind of thing happens elsewhere," Jacques said. "But when this kind of thing happens here, it's a surprise."

The mother of the slain children was reportedly away on vacation when the incident occurred.

Morin is expected to appear in court early next week. An autopsy is also scheduled to be performed on the victims.

St-Romain is about 240 kilometres east of Montreal.