Police said Wednesday a New York man killed his wife, two daughters and himself in a Maryland hotel room, the latest in a string of domestic murder-suicides across the country and the second in Maryland since last week.
Investigators had previously called the deaths a murder-suicide but had not specified who killed whom.
Detectives have since determined that William Parente, 58, of Garden City, N.Y., killed his wife, Betty, 58, and their daughters, 19-year-old Stephanie and 11-year-old Catherine, then himself at the Sheraton Baltimore North, Baltimore County police said in a statement.
Police say the mother and Catherine were killed first, according to CBS station WJZ-TV. When Stephanie returned to the hotel room from Loyola, she was killed. Police say all died from blunt force trauma and asphyxiation. The mother and daughters were found on a bed in the hotel room.
Police say William then cut himself in the bathroom and died.
Police planned to officially release the cause and manner of each of the four deaths at a news conference Wednesday but said they did not have a motive.
In New York, the state attorney general's office said it had just received a complaint from a man who says he invested hundreds of thousands of dollars with William M. Parente and had trouble getting his money back. Spokesman Alex Detrick said the complaint was received Tuesday afternoon, and investigators had yet to determine whether to start an investigation.
Bruce Montague, 47, a Queens lawyer, told Newsday that he recently received six checks worth about $450,000 from Parente.
Montague said that Parente told him that he could deposit two of the checks, but asked him to wait with the others. Montague said a bank official told him the four others would not clear.
The Parente family was last seen Sunday afternoon and after the family failed to check out on time, workers at the hotel in Towson, a suburb just north of Baltimore, found the bodies in a 10th floor guest room on Monday afternoon.
Friends and neighbors of the Parentes said they never suspected anything was amiss and were dumbfounded to learn the family was dead.
William Parente was a lawyer, his wife Betty a stay-at-home mom active in the community. Their daughters were well-liked by teachers and classmates.
They lived in a neighborhood of million-dollar homes in Garden City, N.Y., next to a golf course. William was a tax and estate planning attorney who commuted to Manhattan. Betty volunteered.
They were in Maryland to visit Stephanie, a sophomore at Loyola College in Baltimore, with her sister, Catherine, a sixth-grader at Garden City Middle School.
"I can't tell you how heartsick I am," next-door neighbor Mary Opulente Krener said. "This is the most wonderful family, the most kind and loving family. I'm astounded."
Maryland was already dealing with a similar tragedy when word of the Parentes' deaths began to spread. Sometime late Thursday night or Friday morning, a father in the northwestern Maryland city of Frederick fatally shot his wife and their three young children, police said.
The father, Christopher A. Wood, 34, then shot himself. Police revealed Tuesday that the family was having extreme financial problems.
An analysis by the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., found an average of nine or 10 murder-suicides a week. But familicides - in which both parents and all their children are killed - generally happen only happen two or three times every six months, said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the center, a nonprofit gun-control advocacy group.
"They were so rare that we didn't really bother to count them as a separate category," Rand said. But in the last few months, she said, "there's a clear rash" of such killings.
They can be tied to the nation's economic woes, said Richard Gelles, dean of the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.
Familicides have also occurred this year in Los Angeles and Santa Clara, Calif., and in Belle Valley, Ohio. The slayings are usually committed by men, usually because of shame over financial problems, and people close to the families never see it coming, Gelles said.