On Wednesday, Baltimore County police sketched a timeline for the murder-suicide of a Long Island family in a room at the Sheraton hotel in Towson. Officials described methodical killings over a period of hours Sunday, but a crime with no clearly defined motive since the killer left no suicide note.
Their bodies were laid out on a king-size bed. William Parente's body was found in the bathroom. He killed himself hours after his family, sometime early Monday morning. Police said there were no obvious signs of a struggle or that anyone had been drugged or restrained.
Taking notice of Stephanie Parente's absence from classes Monday, Loyola officials alerted the Sheraton Baltimore North hotel. Employees entered the locked room about 3 p.m. that day and found the bodies.
Investigators found no note, Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson said, but they have learned about William Parente's "questionable financial dealings." County police are forwarding information, which Johnson would not describe, to the FBI's New York office.
"We continue to interview family, friends and work associates to determine the motive and the circumstances behind these violent acts," Johnson said.
An FBI spokesman in New York said an investigation into William Parente's financial dealings is under way. Also, a lawyer in Queens has written to the New York state attorney general's office alleging that he was defrauded by Parente.
Police said it was not unusual for the Parentes, a Roman Catholic family with Italian roots in Brooklyn, to make the 215-mile drive from Garden City to Loyola, where Stephanie was a speech pathology major. She was studious, friends said, and wanted to be a dentist.
The family checked into the hotel, near Towson Town Center mall, April 15; they were due to check out Monday morning.
Stephanie was surprised by her family's visit, said friend and fellow sophomore Gabrielle Paige, 19. Loyola had just resumed classes a day earlier, after a brief Easter break. Stephanie was preparing for final exams, Paige said. And the Parentes were scheduled to visit this Friday for an on-campus meeting about a study-abroad program in England, for which Stephanie and Paige had signed up, Paige said.
"None of it made sense," Paige said. "They just called her and said they were here in Baltimore. It seemed like they decided on a whim to come out here."
But once they were here, Stephanie's friends said, the family's visit was ordinary. "Nothing was amiss as far as her roommates could tell," said the Rev. Brian Linnane, Loyola's president.The family had breakfast together Sunday near the campus, a Loyola spokeswoman said, and Stephanie came back to her dorm room afterward. Stephanie had a chemistry exam Monday and was planning to study Sunday, friends said.
But she was nowhere to be found that night, though her chemistry book lay open on her dorm-room desk. Friends were concerned enough to call the hotel, Paige said.
One of Stephanie's roommates got through to the room about midnight, and William Parente told her that Stephanie would be staying the night with them.
The medical examiner listed the manner of death of the wife and daughters as homicide, police said, and the cause for all three as asphyxiation and blunt force trauma. Asphyxiation is the obstruction of normal breathing, but police did not say whether the three were strangled or smothered.
There were several objects in the room that could have been used to inflict the trauma, said Johnson, the county police chief, but investigators have not concluded what exactly William Parente used.
The mother and youngest daughter were killed "relatively close in time," said police spokesman Bill Toohey, though Johnson said evidence showed the mother died first. It is unclear whether the 11-year-old was in the room at the time.
Stephanie Parente was apparently killed later Sunday, police said.
"We might never know the exact sequence of what went on in that room," Toohey said.
William Parente's death was determined by the medical examiner to be a suicide caused by cutting with a knife. Police would not say where on his body he was cut.
On Long Island and on the Loyola campus, those who knew the Parentes were grieving.
"This continues to be a very difficult time for the entire campus community," said Courtney Jolley, a Loyola spokeswoman. She said there would be a private campus vigil Thursday night, and Loyola is continuing to provide counseling and support services.
Paige said Stephanie's four roommates were especially close to her. She said some of the women are putting on a brave face while others are not handling their friend's death as well.
"You would never see her without one of her roommates," Paige said. "Their hearts are just broken."
Baltimore Sun reporter Stephen Kiehl contributed to this article.
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