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The roof of the Wood Street parking garage offers a panoramic vista across the Wabash River valley.

The view stretches past the dome of the Tippecanoe County courthouse and onto the wooded hillside beyond, blazing with fall color.The picturesque scene was the last ever seen by 11-year-old Sean Kent, his brother, Kyle, 8, and their mother, Kathy Kent, before the three plunged to their deaths in an alley eight stories below.

The tragedy Wednesday afternoon on Purdue University's campus left many unanswered questions, including whether the boys had been pushed. They fell first, followed seconds later by their mother.

Sean was an articulate child who smoothly emceed a school talent show. Kyle was a gifted student and soccer enthusiast. Kathy Kent, 44, was closely involved in their schooling in this city about 50 miles northwest of Indianapolis.

At Murdoch Elementary School, former classmates of the boys wrote letters of condolence that were displayed in the school library. "We are sorry," one read.

"I am still just absolutely shocked," said Dianna Chalk, principal at Murdoch, where both boys were students last school year.

"I talked to a school counselor today . . . and one of the things he said that made sense to me was, you can't explain the illogical with logic," she said.

Officials initially suspected it was a murder-suicide but later said they were unsure what happened.

"There just aren't enough pieces of information together yet," said Purdue spokeswoman Jeanne V. Nor-berg.

Although witnesses saw the three fall from the top floor of the garage, investigators said no one had been found who saw what happened in the moments before their deaths.

The Kents' minivan was found parked on the top floor of the garage, near the 31/2-foot-high wall over which the three plunged. The sliding door was open and Kathy Kent's purse was inside.

Robert Tyree, a construction worker taking a break from a job next to the garage, said he rushed around the corner after hearing a thudding sound.

"At first I thought it was a joke, somebody threw dummies or something," he said.

But as bystanders rushed to the alley, reality fast became clear. "It was horrible," Tyree said.

The boys' father, Thomas Kent, a delivery truck driver, was in seclusion, "having a tough time," said a next door neighbor.