By Julie Bykowicz and Stephen Kiehl
Baltimore Sun reporters
April 22, 2009
After she didn't show up for class Monday, college officials called the Sheraton hotel in Towson, where her family was staying on a visit from Long Island, N.Y. There, inside a locked room about 3 p.m. Monday, a hotel employee found the bodies of Stephanie Parente, her 11-year-old sister, Catherine, and their parents, William, 59, and Betty, 58.
They were not shot or stabbed, and one of the parents was likely responsible for the murder-suicide, Cpl. Michael Hill, a Baltimore County police spokesman, said Tuesday. He declined to give details or say whether there was evidence of a motive.
"With sadness, we report a whole family is dead," Hill said at a news conference Tuesday. He said more information would be released Wednesday.
The family lived in Garden City on Long Island, a small, upper-middle-class community with one of the largest shopping malls in the world. William Parente was a tax and estate lawyer with a midtown Manhattan office. Betty Parente was a homemaker and a charity fundraiser. Catherine was a sixth-grader at a Garden City middle school.
Stephanie Parente also had attended Garden City public schools. At Loyola College, she was a coxswain for the men's crew team and a player on the club field hockey team. She danced at school rallies and loved going out. She wanted to be a dentist.
"She was always full of life and happy and smiling," said Stefanie Spain, a sophomore who lived in Parente's dorm during her freshman year. "She was always making people laugh."
Dave Thompson, a sophomore who was on the crew team with Stephanie, said she had helped out with Habitat for Humanity last year and was planning to study in England in the fall.
Robert J. Krener, who owns a real estate brokerage, said he sold the Parentes their Garden City house about 12 years ago. Then the Kreners moved into the house next door about 2 1/2 years ago.
"You can't find finer people. And the daughters - oh, my God," Krener said. "I remember when they were trying to make the choices for [Stephanie] to go to college."
Krener said he didn't know the family had gone to Maryland to visit their daughter at Loyola. When police came to his house Monday and started asking questions about them, Krener became worried. He and his wife called Betty Parente's cell phone and didn't get an answer. They called the Parentes' condo in Westhampton. Nothing.
By then, concern was also growing among Stephanie Parente's friends in Maryland.
The last official record of her on campus was Sunday morning, when she swiped her ID card and had breakfast with her roommates in a dining hall. Her friends knew that her family was visiting for the weekend and that she was spending time with them.
Sunday night, college officials said, she wasn't in her room studying, though her chemistry textbook lay open on her desk.
Friends called her cell phone, but she didn't answer. Then they called her family's hotel room. Her father picked up and told them Stephanie would be staying the night with them, said the Rev. Brian Linnane, Loyola's president.
Not long after the college notified the hotel about her absence Monday, word spread about the deaths.
"It is very devastating for us," Linnane said. "Stephanie was a very gifted, bright young woman. ... This is a grievous wound and a terrible loss of someone with real promise."
The bodies were found Monday in a locked room in the Sheraton Baltimore North, near Towson Town Center mall. They were taken to the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore, where autopsies were to be conducted Tuesday, police said.
Baltimore County investigators are consulting with police in New York, but no county officers had been sent there Tuesday morning, said Hill, the police spokesman. He would not say whether a suicide note or other evidence of a motive was found in the hotel room.
The discovery of the Parentes' bodies came a little more than a year after a father was charged in the drowning deaths of three children in a bathtub at a downtown Baltimore hotel, and two days after five members of a Frederick County family were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide.
As word of the Parentes' deaths spread across the tight-knit Loyola campus Monday night, an impromptu service was held in the Catholic college's chapel for Stephanie's friends.
Tuesday, a campuswide e-mail was sent to Loyola students, faculty and staff. Even students who did not know Stephanie Parente said they were shocked and saddened.
In the prayer garden next to the chapel, a dozen of her friends gathered in the afternoon to cry, hug and lean on each other. Students said their Catholic faith and deep sense of community would help them through.
"Our faith is an important resource for us to turn to because we're really confronting the mystery of evil," Linnane, the school president, said.
More than 1,000 Loyola students came together in Alumni Memorial Chapel for the Mass on Tuesday night, lining the walls and sitting on the floor and altar. They sang "Lord of All Hopefulness" and "Amazing Grace" in a service led by Linnane.
A framed black-and-white photograph of Stephanie Parente was placed on a table.
Her roommates sat in the front row after walking up a side aisle, holding each other's hands. Two of them delivered the readings, about death and salvation.
Three other roommates also came to the altar to read the prayers of the faithful. Through tears, they offered prayers for all the young people who leave the world too early, for William and Betty Parente, for Catherine and, finally, for Stephanie.
"You brightened our lives," a roommate said, "and we'll never forget you."
Baltimore Sun reporter Gus G. Sentementes contributed to this article.
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