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Father of slain children had scratches, bruises

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FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — The body of a Salvadoran immigrant who hanged himself after killing his four children had minor scratches, scrapes and bruises, according to a newspaper report yesterday.

Frederick police officials declined to speculate on the source of the wounds found on Pedro Rodriguez's body during an autopsy. Chief Kim C. Dine said investigators have considered several scenarios, including that the children inflicted the wounds while struggling with their father.

However, Detective Sgt. Bruce C. DeGrange said such wounds are typical of suicides.

"There's absolutely nothing there that causes us any alarm," he said.

The records obtained by the Frederick News-Post also showed that Angel Rodriguez, 3, died from a skull fracture. Police previously said only that the boy died from blunt-force trauma to the head.

His three sisters, Elsa, 9; Vanessa, 4; and Carena, 16 months, died from asphyxia caused by suffocation or smothering, the autopsy records state.

The whereabouts of Rodriguez's wife and children's mother, Deysi Benitez, remain a mystery nearly three months after the bodies were found in the family's Frederick town house March 26.

"We're continuing to work the case and use all our available resources," Chief Dine said.

Rodriguez, 28, and his children were buried April 12 in Sensuntepeque, El Salvador, the parents' hometown.

Mrs. Benitez, 25, was last reported seen March 18 outside the family's town house. Police have said she probably fled to Central America with a friend before the deaths, but they haven't ruled out that she was killed.

Rodriguez's autopsy report noted a 11/4-inch superficial cut on his left forearm and half-inch scratches on the front of his left forearm and left thigh. Rodriguez also had scrapes and bruises on the left side of his back, according to the report.

The children were found dead in their beds, fully clothed and completely covered by bedspreads. Rodriguez was found hanging from a stairwell banister.

Relatives and co-workers have said the family struggled with language problems and financial difficulties, and that the marriage was troubled. Rodriguez learned March 15 that he would lose his job at a door-manufacturing plant scheduled to close in July. Mrs. Benitez worked in a restaurant kitchen.

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