HUDSON OAKS, Texas (Reuters) - Three young girls and their mother were found hanged in a mobile home in central Texas but another child, an 8-month-old girl, survived after being discovered dangling by the neck, police said on Tuesday.
While the four deaths in the trailer park west of Fort Worth appeared to be a murder/suicide, Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler said police were not saying anything definitive pending the results of autopsies to be performed on Wednesday.
He identified the mother as Gilberta Estrada, 25.
Fowler said there were no signs of struggle or trauma, suggesting that the mother had hanged her children and then taken her own life.
“I know what it looks like on the surface but until we absolutely know that’s it, it’s open,” Fowler told a news conference.
In a grisly twist, “the mother could have stopped this at any time ... her feet were on the floor,” he said.
Fowler said she appeared to have leaned into the cloth that throttled her until she blacked out but could have pulled herself back.
All of the victims were found in a closet by Estrada’s sister. Fowler said the dead girls were believed to be age 5, 3 and 2 but police could not say for sure.
The mother and father -- or fathers -- of the children were separated. Fowler said police were not sure whether there was more than one father of the four girls but they had spoken with the one “that we know about.”
By early afternoon, police had left the trailer park and the crime scene tape had been taken down. Rain battered the children’s toys left strewn about the yard and a few neighbors looked out at the scene from their balconies.
“I believe she was a good mother,” neighbor Vicky Montgomery told Reuters. “The kids were always clean and playing outside. She seemed very dedicated.”
Her partner, Richard Lamb, added: “She always took her kids to the bus in the morning and always had lunch for them.”
Fowler said “horrendous” was the only way to describe the grisly incident, which was given heavy news coverage.
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