A small Maryland town is in disbelief after a man killed his wife and three children before fatally shooting himself and leaving behind five notes — including an apology to family members and hints that he suffered from psychiatric problems, authorities said.
"It was the worst, most horrific event I've seen in all my years," Charles Jenkins, the Frederick County sheriff, who worked there for more than 20 years, told the Baltimore Sun.
Jenkins said there were also signs that the family had financial problems.
For members of Holy Family Catholic Community Church, in Middletown, Md., where the slain mother taught catechism, reports of the brutal killings were upsetting and baffling.
"We're all in shock and trying to come to terms," said Kevin Farmer, the pastor of Holy Family.
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Christopher Alan Wood killed his wife and children, then himself, in their northwest Maryland home, leaving a gruesome scene that authorities said was found Saturday by the children's' grandfather.
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, Jenkins said. Their precise cause of death wasn't immediately known, and Jenkins declined to say what was used to slash them.
Wood, an accountant at railroad operator CSX Corp., apologized to family members in one of the notes he left at the scene. The sheriff wouldn't elaborate on what else was written in the notes.
The sheriff also said there was evidence that Wood 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 Middletown, a community of fewer than 3,000 people about 10 miles west of Frederick, friends said.
Jane Durant, the director of Middletown United Methodist Church Preschool, said she last saw the slain mother, Francis Billotti 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.
The dead woman's father found the slain family around 9 a.m. Saturday. He had grown concerned after not hearing from them for several days, Frederick County sheriff's office spokeswoman Jennifer Bailey said.
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 were in the master bedroom, Bailey said. On the master bedroom floor by the foot of the bed was the 34-year-old father, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, she said.
Francis Wood — known by some as "Francie" — returned to her native Middletown from Texas last year to be closer to her family, said Durant, the preschool director. 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."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.