A man with a history of mental problems was charged with drowning his three children in a Baltimore hotel room over the weekend and had threatened to kill them more than a year ago, his former wife said in court documents.

Mark Castillo, 41, was charged Monday with first-degree murder, child abuse and child abuse resulting in death. Police say he confessed to drowning the children, Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 2, one-by-one Saturday in the bathtub of his room at a Marriott hotel near in the city's Inner Harbor. He was being held without bail.

Police charging documents said Castillo was motivated by his recent divorce. Court records show he was fighting a pitched legal battle with his former wife, Amy Castillo, over the children.

Amy Castillo requested a protective order in Montgomery County District Court on Dec. 25, 2006, and asked that her husband receive mental counseling. In her petition, she said her husband had been diagnosed with mood disorder and narcissistic personality disorder two months earlier. And she said he had threatened to kill himself that summer.

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"He has never actually hurt (the children), but did tell me that the worst thing he could do to me would be to kill the children and not me so I could live without them," she wrote in the petition.

Amy Castillo was given a temporary protective order, but her request for a permanent order was rejected on Jan. 10, 2007, by Circuit Judge Joseph Dugan. In a form Dugan signed giving his ruling, a box was checked indicating "no clear or convincing evidence that the alleged acts of abuse occurred."

It was not clear Monday if Mark Castillo had a lawyer. He represented himself throughout most of his divorce proceedings. Amy Castillo, a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente, did not respond to an e-mail or phone message left at her Silver Spring home. Her attorney in the divorce also did not immediately return a phone call.

Outside her home Monday, a family friend handed a statement to reporters that read: "Amy Castillo asks for your continued prayers during this unspeakably difficult time. She is surrounded by family and friends and is coping as well as can be expected."

According to charging documents, Mark Castillo told police he drowned the children about 6 p.m. Saturday, then stabbed himself in the neck several times with a steak knife. He also took about 100 Motrin pain reliever pills in an attempt to commit suicide, but woke up Sunday at 1 p.m. He then called the hotel front desk to say he had killed his children.

Officers went to room 1060 shortly afterward and found the three children lying naked and dead in a bed and the father on another bed. Castillo told police his motive was "a recent divorce stemming from domestic issues with his wife," charging documents state.

"I know what I did was bad. I did it," he allegedly told paramedics.

Castillo was supposed to return the children to their mother in Silver Spring at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Amy Castillo called Montgomery County police shortly after the deadline to say that her husband had not returned them, Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld said.

Neighbors of Amy Castillo and those who lived near the Rockville house where Mark Castillo rented a room said they saw few signs of trouble.

Maria Galvis said the father would bring the children to her house, where he had been a tenant for two years. He usually seemed happy, she said, especially when he was with the kids.

"He is a wonderful father, a wonderful person," she said Monday. "He loved the children."

In Silver Spring, neighbor Maria Habesch said she went to a party a few years ago at the couple's home. She described Mark Castillo as "very, very polite," but said she hasn't seen him in two years.

Habesch said she saw the children playing Friday in the front yard of their home.

"The situation, it paralyzes you," she said. "It's not easy, to know these little kids were jumping (around) and then they are gone."

After a lengthy court case, the Castillos were divorced in February. Under the agreement, Mark Castillo had visitation rights, but he and his wife often sparred over planning, according to e-mails between them contained in court records. Amy Castillo was fined at one point last year for blocking her husband from seeing the children.

In her protective order petition, Amy Castillo said her husband was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution in the summer of 2006 for suicidal and manic behavior. At the time, he had been "driving around the country living in the car," she wrote. But Mark Castillo appealed his commission and was released a week later.

A psychologist who evaluated Mark Castillo in September and October of 2006 diagnosed him with mood disorder and "narcissistic personality disorder with borderline and histrionic personality traits."

He had instability in his personal relationships and recurrent suicidal thoughts, and once bought ant poison, duct tape and a utility knife to kill himself, but changed his mind. His goal was to make his wife "feel terrible for taking the children," according to the report.

But the psychologist, C. David Missar of Washington, also concluded that "the acute risk of harm Mr. Castillo poses to his children is low" if he continued to get treatment. A letter from another psychologist filed in June 2007 indicated Castillo was faithfully attending psychotherapy sessions and that there were no indications he was a threat to the children.

However, the divorce appeared to take a toll on the children, especially the eldest boy. In an August e-mail to the court, a psychiatrist described an incident in which the father cursed in front of Anthony about the mother, upsetting the boy.

The incident sparked a series of e-mails between the Castillos. Amy Castillo said it proved her husband's anger made him unfit to see the children; he accused her of telling the children false stories about him.

"We do miss being your family, but I can't let the children grow up with this kind of continuing emotional turmoil," Amy Castillo wrote to her husband.

Castillo was expected to appear Tuesday at a courtroom in Baltimore for a bail hearing.