- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Marshals delivering an eviction notice today found the bodies of four youths inside a Southeast home, authorities said.

Marshals found the decomposing bodies on the second floor of the small, two-story brick apartment building about 10 a.m. after noticing the smell, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Cole Barnhart said.

A woman who answered the door was taken into police custody for questioning.

“She was apparently calm throughout,” Barnhart said.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said all four bodies appeared to be juveniles ranging in age from 5 to 18. Authorities were investigating how the youths died, and it was unclear how long they had been dead. “I’d say more than several days,” Lanier said.

Authorities did not release the names of the youths or the woman being questioned. It was not clear if the woman was related to the four, Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes said.

Larry Jones, who lives next door, said a woman and two or three children live at the home but that he has not seen them since the summer. He said the children appeared healthy at the time.

Jones added that in recent months he has noticed a “strange odor” coming through his vent. “We thought it was probably dead mice in the vent or something,” he said.

D.C. Council member Marion Barry, who represents the neighborhood where the bodies were found, questioned why no one had reported that four people were missing.

“Somebody should have known that some people were not in school,” Barry said.

D.C. schools spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said none of the children was enrolled in the school system. One child had attended Stuart-Hobson Elementary School but withdrew in 2006 as a fifth-grader, she said.

The home where the bodies were found is in one of the city’s poorest areas on a block of virtually identical apartment houses near Bolling Air Force Base.

Area resident Rowand Simpkins said her neighbors tend to keep to themselves and that she never saw the woman or children.

“It’s really a mystery,” she said of the youths’ deaths. “It’s a sad situation.”

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