COLUMBUS, Ohio – Tia Hendricks was supposed to bring dessert to her family's Thanksgiving dinner. A cake, maybe, or her famous banana pudding.
But she and her two children never made it. Authorities in central Ohio say Hendricks' live-in boyfriend, Caron Montgomery, stabbed the three of them to death before wounding himself.
Columbus police found the three bodies with knife wounds Friday after the 31-year-old Hendricks didn't show up for Thanksgiving or to her job as a bill collector the following day. Autopsy results are expected Sunday.
Montgomery, 36, was arrested Saturday on three murder charges, and authorities moved him from a hospital to the Franklin County jail. It wasn't clear whether he had an attorney.
"I'm glad he didn't kill himself," Hendricks' aunt, Anita Hayes, said Saturday. "Dying would have been too easy for him. He needs to live every day through this because we will and Thanksgiving will never be the same for us again."
Hendricks lived for her two children, 10-year-old Tahlia Hendricks and 2-year-old Tyron Hendricks-Montgomery, her family said. She took on a second job as a cashier at Burlington Coat Factory so she could earn extra money to buy them presents.
"She just wanted them to have a very nice Christmas, to make sure that they got everything they wanted," said another aunt, Tammy Milbry, who teaches math and science to fourth- and fifth-graders in Columbus.
On Tuesday, Hendricks took off early from her day job to see Tahlia perform in her school's Thanksgiving play.
She talked with her friend and co-worker Monique Robinson the following afternoon. But when Robinson called Hendricks Wednesday night and a few times on Thursday to wish her a happy Thanksgiving, no one answered.
Police said someone called 911 from Hendricks' cell phone Thursday morning. Officers responded to the area, but in such a large apartment complex, they weren't able to trace the exact location of the call.
"I could see Tia with her last breath dialing 911 trying to get help for her children," Milbry, her aunt, said. Police said it wasn't clear who had dialed out from the cell phone and a copy of the call wasn't immediately available.
By Friday, when Hendricks didn't show up to her job as a financial collector and hadn't returned a single phone call, Robinson, her co-worker, sensed something wasn't right.
She called Hendricks' mother and they went to her apartment complex with a few relatives. They knocked on her door, and after no one answered, a maintenance worker took them to a rental office and an employee called police. Authorities found the bodies inside.
Hendricks had been dating Montgomery — the father of 2-year-old Tyron — off and on for several years, relatives said. Her family had never cared much for the man who once kicked in their front door.
"If I could see him right now, I would ask him, 'Why the kids? Why did you do that to the kids?'" Hayes said.
Tahlia was a bright girl who had the potential to accomplish her goals. She earned good grades. She cheered, swam and studied Spanish at school.
"She was a beautiful daughter, just like her mom," said Hendricks' stepmother, Manuela Hendricks.
And she was protective of her baby brother, a rambunctious little boy.
"He would come up and just touch you, let you know he was there," Hayes said. "If you caught him doing something, he would turn and look at you sideways and just smile."
And their mother was responsible. Hendricks started working as a teen, and later, when she had kids, rushed between two jobs to get the kids to daycare, her family said. She also took them to the park for picnics, had sleepovers with Tahlia's friends and threw the best birthday parties.
"She had a lot on her plate for such a young girl," Milbry said.
Hendricks moved in with her mother to care for her after she had two strokes and a heart attack back in February. Friday, after authorities found the bodies, Hendricks' mother was rushed to the hospital again.
"Even as a child, you knew Tia wanted something in life because she was a hard worker," Milbry said. "She was determined to give her children a good life and whatever it took, if she had to work two jobs, that's what she did."