- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Federal officials yesterday disclosed the immigration status of the man and his four children who were found dead inside a Frederick town house Monday, while a diplomat made an appeal to the missing mother on a local television station.

The parents, Pedro Rodriguez, 28, and Deysi Benitez, 25, and their oldest child, 9-year-old Elsa, were in the country from El Salvador legally on temporary protected status, a designation similar to asylum that is given to immigrants from certain countries.

The other three children — Vanessa, 4; Angel, 3; and Carena, 1 — were born in the U.S. and were citizens.

“To obtain [temporary protected status], you would have to have been from a particular country that is listed,” said James Dinkins, special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Baltimore. “Basically, a country would get on temporary protected status because of some natural disaster in the country, or maybe a civil war. There’s certain criteria.”

El Salvador will be on the list until September. Mr. Dinkins could not say which criteria El Salvador had been designated under. Honduras, Nicaragua and a handful of African countries are also on the list.

Authorities continue to search for Mrs. Benitez, who has not been seen for about 10 days.

El Salvador’s consul general, Ana Margarita Chavez, taped a television segment yesterday on a local Spanish-language station urging Mrs. Benitez to contact her.

“What I said was, ‘Please, Deysi, if you have the opportunity to see me or listen to me, or if somebody around you listens to me… call me,’ ” Mrs. Chavez said. “I’m going to do this with all my love because I understand you are suffering a lot as a mother that has lost four children.”

Mrs. Chavez said she was hopeful that Mrs. Benitez would see the message, although there was no guarantee that she was still in the area or even alive.

Mrs. Chavez has spoken with Mr. Rodriguez’s brothers in Los Angeles and Mrs. Benitez’s sister and mother in El Salvador.

“They are really in shock,” she said. “Deysi’s mother told me… ‘Please, go to the river, go to the sea, go wherever you can to find my daughter.’ ”

Mrs. Chavez said Mr. Rodriguez moved to the U.S. about nine years ago, and Mrs. Benitez followed two years later. The family had lived in the town house since 2005.

The couple had known each other for many years. They both grew up in Sensuntepeque, a town in central El Salvador.

Mrs. Chavez said Mrs. Benitez may have been a victim of domestic violence at the hand of her husband, according to the woman’s sister.

The police had been to the couple’s house in Frederick eight times since 2005, but six of those times were over minor issues such as parking. Police declined to comment on the other two cases.

The children were found dead in their beds Monday afternoon after a Hillcrest Elementary School liaison worker went to their house in the 1200 block of Danielle Drive. Two of the children hadn’t shown up for school in several days. Mr. Rodriguez was found hanging by a yellow nylon rope from the second-floor banister.

Preliminary autopsy results showed the children hadn’t been stabbed or shot. They may have either suffocated or been poisoned, said Frederick Police Lt. Thomas Chase.

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