Watch CBSN Live

Cause of death determined for kids found in car after Amber Alert

ELKART COUNTY, Ind. -- Two children found dead in a vehicle in northern Indiana following an Amber Alert were asphyxiated, a coroner ruled Tuesday, according to CBS affiliate WSBT.

The coroner confirmed the children found dead Monday are siblings Liliana Hernandez, 7, and Rene Pasztor, 6. Their cause of death was found to be homicide. Police had issued an Amber Alert for the children Monday, saying they were “believed to be in extreme danger” after being abducted by their mother, who did not have custody.

Amber Pasztor WSBT

The mother, 29-year-old Amber Pasztor, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, has been arrested on two preliminary counts of murder after she flagged down a police officer in Elkhart, who made the gruesome discovery. 

Police later found the body of Pasztor’s 66-year-old neighbor Frank Macomber, in a wooded area near their Fort Wayne homes.

Elkhart police Sgt. Chris Snyder said investigators were working Tuesday “to put the pieces together” and determine what happened between the time the two youngsters were abducted in Fort Wayne, where they lived with their grandparents, and when their bodies were found in Elkhart, 70 miles to the northwest. 

Tuesday, Elkhart County prosecuting attorney Curtis Hill wouldn’t say whether Pasztor led authorities to Macomber’s body, but said she gave information that was helpful to the investigation. Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Karen Richards said MacComber had been shot to death.

He was likely killed in Allen County before the children were abducted, Richards said. The car in which the children’s bodies were found belonged to him, and had been described in the Amber Alert, according to Richards.

Other than the fact that they were neighbors and knew each other, the relationship between Pasztor and Macomber remains unclear. They were believed to be together at some point on Monday.

WSBT reports Amber Pasztor’s father said she has battled a drug addiction and he’s had custody of the children for a little more than a year.

Snyder said Pasztor parked outside the Elkhart’s police department Monday evening and began speaking to an officer who was leaving after completing his shift.

“She pulled up to him and explained to him that she was part of the Amber Alert and the two kids were in the back seat,” Snyder said, adding that the officer then saw the bodies of two children in the car.

He said police have no indication of a motive in the case. Snyder said Pasztor was initially cooperative following her arrest before “she became pretty emotional. And that’s kind of where our detectives left it last night.”

Police “are still actively investigating the case” and prosecutors haven’t received their findings, Elkhart County Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Shelley Murphy said. She added that a magistrate will review probable cause information in the case Wednesday and formal charges will be filed later this week against Pasztor.

Pasztor was being held in the Elkhart County jail. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Pasztor had an attorney who could comment on her behalf.

Hill called the case a “senseless tragedy.”

“It’s a horrific thought that one minute you have a lively, bright, energetic 6-year-old and 7-year-old, and the next their lives are snuffed out,” Hill said.