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Man detained in slaying of mom, toddlers in California, authorities say

Outside the scene of the killing of a Northern California mother and her two young toddlers.
CBS Sacramento
Outside the scene of the killing of a Northern California mother and her two young toddlers.
CBS Sacramento

(CBS/AP) SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A man was detained early Wednesday in the brutal killings of a Northern California mother and her two toddler children, authorities say.

The man was taken in for questioning around 2 a.m. at a Placer County Denny's after authorities spotted a white Chrysler minivan outside the restaurant that had been missing from the scene of the killings.

Sacramento County Sheriff's spokesman Jason Ramos says the man was believed to be in possession of the van. He was being interviewed by homicide investigators.

According to CBS Sacramento, police have so far not identified the man as the murder suspect.

The woman was in her 20s. She and her 2-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter were found dead by the children's father on Tuesday afternoon at their Rancho Cordova home, about 15 miles east of Sacramento. He ran to a neighbor who called police.

Ramos said officers found the "extremely distraught" man sitting in front of the house when they arrived. A 6 month-old infant was found crying inside a crib in the back of the house, authorities said.

Ramos said officers were not yet revealing how the mother and children died, but said: "This is somebody who confronted a family inside their homes and took their lives very violently. It's shocking, even to veteran law enforcement."

The names of the man and the victims have not been released, though authorities said the family is of eastern European descent.

CBS Sacramento reports that the woman's family issued a statement Tuesday night saying, "We'll greatly miss her and the children. She was a lovely woman of heart, one of a kind, an awesome mom for the babies. We still can't believe they're gone."

According to the station, the woman was a Sunday school teacher at a local Slavic church and had recently graduated from Sacramento State.