A 40-year-old Santa Rosa man involved in a child custody dispute is suspected of killing his children, a 6-year-old daughter and an 18-month-old son, and then hanging himself, Santa Rosa police investigators said.
The bodies were discovered Monday morning when deputies got into the man’s apartment on Slater Street near downtown Santa Rosa through a window, Santa Rosa Police Lt. John Cregan said.
The children were supposed to reunite with their mother Sunday evening, but the transfer didn’t occur and the mother called the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office because she lives in unincorporated Santa Rosa, Cregan said.
Deputies responded to her call, and Sunday night they began trying to reach the father to check on the children’s welfare. They made “multiple attempts to contact the father and check the welfare of the two children” before getting into the apartment through a window, police officials said.
They found the bodies in a bedroom.
The father had apparently hanged himself. The children’s bodies lay nearby.
Police said it wasn’t immediately clear how the children died. A cause of death is pending an autopsy.
The children were last seen alive Sunday morning when the mother brought the 18-month old boy to the father’s apartment where his sister had spent the night, according to Cregan. The children and their dad were to spend Father’s Day together, with the mother picking them up later in the day, Cregan said.
The children’s parents had been married and were separated, according to police.
“They have been struggling to balance the relationship with their kids, but I believe this was a shock to the family that it deteriorated to this,” Cregan said. “The police department is going to put all the investigative resources we have to track down the timeline and learn the full details of what occurred with this unimaginable tragedy.”
Yellow police tape blocked a portion of Slater Street for much of the day to block access to the light green, two-story building, located between College Avenue and Benton Street.
Chaplains were dispatched to the quiet street to support distraught family members, Cregan said. Relatives of the victims arrived at the scene early Monday afternoon, but were stopped by police officers who tried to calm the distraught couple, the woman wailing loudly and reluctant to leave the area.
A few neighbors were allowed into and out of their homes within the restricted area but otherwise there was no foot or car traffic.
“I feel like it’s horrific to know that happened,” said neighbor Rosalinda Monroy, who was leaving her home in the blocked-off area. “I feel really terrible.”
Monroy said she’d been out that morning and returned to her Slater Street home to find police and the tape blocking off her street. “I thought it was probably a homicide or a death,” Monroy said. She’d also heard the upset woman’s cries of pain.
Santa Rosa engineer Rob Huffman works in the area and was out for a daily walk when his path was blocked by the police investigation.
“This is horrible,” said Huffman after learning of the deaths.
Anyone with information about the case can call Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Josh Ludtke at 707-543-3695.