- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2007

FREDERICK, Md. — The three young sisters found dead last week at their home had been suffocated, and their 3-year-old brother died from skull fractures, police said yesterday as they continued to search for the children’s mother.

Investigators have gone through airline passenger lists, issued U.S. border alerts and dragged a nearby pond in the search for the missing woman, Deysi M. Benitez, 25.

Lt. Thomas Chase of the Frederick Police Department said the agency also will distribute posters with a reference to Mrs. Benitez’s alias, Estela Sedillo, a name discovered on a document among her papers in the family’s Frederick town house.

Neighbors and co-workers said late last week that they hadn’t seen Mrs. Benitez for at least 10 days, and that neither the children nor their father, Pedro Rodriguez, had been seen for several days. Mr. Rodriguez, 28, was found at the same time as the children. He had hanged himself with nylon rope from a banister in the family’s three-bedroom home.

Police declined to comment on whether a weapon has been found and said they have no suspects in the children’s deaths.

Friends and relatives said Mr. Rodriguez and Mrs. Benitez had emigrated from Sensuntepeque, El Salvador, several years earlier and had struggled with language barriers and financial difficulties.

Mr. Rodriguez learned March 15 that he would lose his factory job. Mrs. Benitez worked at a restaurant.

In a telephone interview from El Salvador last week, Mrs. Benitez’s sister, Angela Benitez, said that her sister and Mr. Rodriguez were having problems and that he beat her at least once, in December.

The sister also said Mrs. Benitez asked for a separation, but Mr. Rodriguez would not allow it.

The children were the 3-year-old boy, Angel Rodriguez, and three girls, Elsa Rodriguez, 9, Vanessa Rodriguez, 4, and Carena Rodriguez, 1. The causes of death given yesterday were preliminary determinations from the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The youngest three children were born in the United States, and the parents were legal immigrants with Maryland driver’s licenses.


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