- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Four children who were found dead in their beds in a Frederick, Md., town house Monday were likely either suffocated or poisoned, preliminary autopsy results show.

Frederick Police Lt. Thomas Chase said the children were not shot or stabbed. The children were found dead Monday afternoon inside their home in the 1200 block of Danielle Drive.

Authorities said a Hillcrest Elementary School liaison worker, concerned that two of the children hadn’t shown up for class in days, went to the home to check on them.

No one answered the door, and police arrived to find their father — 28-year-old Pedro Rodriguez, originally of El Salvador — hanging from a second-floor banister by a yellow nylon rope and the children’s bodies in bedrooms upstairs. Police yesterday identified the children as Elsa, 9; Vanessa, 4; Angel, 3; and Carena, 1.

The bodies were sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Baltimore for a more thorough examination, which couldtake a week or so, Lt. Chase said.

Meanwhile, police began a missing-person search for the children’s mother, 25-year-old Deysi Benitez, who worked at a nearby Outback Steakhouse. She was last seen at work about a week and a half ago.

“We hope she’s still alive,” Lt. Chase said. “We don’t have any indications either way.”

Police were talking with immigration officials and the Salvadoran Embassy in an effort to locate Mrs. Benitez.

Authorities yesterday still did not know who killed the children or why.

Several residents said the children often ran around the neighborhood unsupervised, but they didn’t appear to be abused. One neighbor described the father as an “awfully nice man.”

Maryland property records show Mr. Rodriguez and Mrs. Benitez bought the house in August 2005.

Police discovered the bodies about 3 p.m. after entering through a window in the two-story, three-bedroom town house. The children’s bodies were in beds covered with sheets and blankets in several rooms.

They had been there for at least a few days, although it was not clear exactly how long, Lt. Chase said.

The killings disrupted the normally quiet community. Hundreds of residents crowded around the yellow police tape that cordoned off the scene as authorities removed the bodies from the home and put them in black vans.

Tim Dixon, 45, said he has lived in the community for more than 10 years and can’t remember “anything as drastic as this.”

“It’s really, really heartbreaking, especially when children are involved,” he said.

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