ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Three days after a deadly shooting rocked New Mexico's largest city, police finally released the names Thursday of the three children who died inside their Albuquerque home as their mother fought to shield them.
Investigators said 5-year-old Elijah Mascarenas, 6-year-old Olivia Mascarenas, and 9-year-old Ian Mascarenas died Monday shortly after the mother's ex-boyfriend unloaded on the family.
That former boyfriend, George Daniel Wechsler, 45, later turned the gun on himself.
Authorities said Wechsler had briefly dated the 36-year-old mother, Cheryl Mascarenas, who was wounded in the shooting. Mascarenas is listed in critical but stable condition.
"Evidence shows the mother fought valiantly to try to save her children and get them out of the house," Albuquerque police spokeswoman Celina Espinoza said.
Police say Cheryl Mascarenas recently broke up with Wechsler and asked him to stop calling. A few days before the shooting, police say Wechsler sought to bring the children Christmas gifts.
It's unclear how long the pair dated before they broke up.
Last month, Wechsler was also transported to the hospital and underwent a mental evaluation after threatening to commit suicide, police said. It was not known if that case was connected to the mother's demand to leave her alone.
But Wechsler had a history of stalking and assault.
According to court records, Wechsler pleaded no contest in 2003 to misdemeanor stalking and petty misdemeanor assault against a family member. He was also arrested in 2004 for reckless driving, but police say he had no felony record.
Since the shooting Monday, Albuquerque police had refused until Thursday to release the victims' names despite requests from national media outlets.
Media outlets in Albuquerque have so far honored Albuquerque police request to withhold the names of the mother and the children.
"The Albuquerque Police Department knows the family from the Stagecoach shooting and we as a community (cannot) fathom this unimaginable tragedy," police said in a statement Wednesday.
In a statement, Mascarenas and her former husband, Joshua, thanked Albuquerque police and other agencies for offering support following the shooting.
"As the parents, we put our children before anything else in this world," the pair said in a statement. "While divorced, we have always been a family, raising our children together and actively involved with the daily activities of all three kids."
The former couple then asked for privacy and asked that images of their children not be released.
The Facebook pages of both parents are full of photos with her three children.
Neighbors and friends have placed angel figurines and stuffed animals outside the Albuquerque home.
Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/russell-contreras.