MIDDLETOWN, Md. – An accountant for a railroad operator killed his wife and their three children before fatally shooting himself in a northwest Maryland home, leaving a gruesome scene that was discovered Saturday by the youngsters' grandfather, authorities said.
Authorities didn't specify a motive but said there was evidence the man faced psychiatric and financial problems.
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When investigators arrived at the two-story home, the couple's two sons, ages 5 and 4, lay dead in their beds, while the bodies of a 2-year-old daughter and the mother, Francis Billotti Wood, were in the master bedroom, Frederick County sheriff's office spokeswoman Jennifer Bailey said. On the master bedroom floor by the foot of the bed was the father, 34-year-old Christopher Alan Wood, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Bailey said.
The 33-year-old mother and three children suffered "traumatic cuts" and each also had at least one gunshot wound from a .25-caliber handgun, Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins said. Their precise cause of death wasn't immediately known, and Jenkins declined to say what was used to slash them.
The woman's father found them dead around 9 a.m. He had grown concerned after not hearing from them for several days, Bailey said.
Christopher Wood apologized to family members in one of five notes he wrote and left at the scene, and he indicated in a note that he had psychiatric problems, Jenkins said. The sheriff wouldn't elaborate on what else was written in the notes.
The sheriff also said there was evidence that Wood, a sales accountant at CSX Corp., faced financial problems and may have been in debt.
CSX did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Saturday.
The family had moved months ago to the home in the town of Middletown, a community of less than 3,000 people about 10 miles west of Frederick, friends said.
"We're all in shock and trying to come to terms," said Kevin Farmer, the pastor of Holy Family Catholic Community Church, where the mother taught catechism.
The director of Middletown United Methodist Church Preschool, Jane Durant, said she last saw Francis Wood on Thursday morning, when she picked up her 4-year-old son at the school.
The boy didn't come to school the next day. Durant, the school's director, thought it was unusual. Now, she wonders if something horrible happened Thursday night.
Durant said Francis Wood — whom she called "Francie" — returned to her native Middletown from Texas last year to be closer to her family. She described Francis Wood as a vibrant, bubbly and loving person.
"I just talked to her every day and she's just one of those people you fell in love with right away," Durant said.
Neighbor Peggy Lawrence described Francis Wood as a good homemaker.
"It wouldn't lead you to believe anything was wrong," Lawrence said. "I'm still sick to my stomach. Just to see it end so quickly is so devastating and makes you realize you never know what's going on in people's lives."