The Garden City family of four found dead in a Maryland hotel room in what police call a murder-suicide was described by stunned friends Tuesday as "wonderful, beautiful" people.
William Parente, 59, his wife, Betty Parente, 58, and their daughters, Stephanie Parente, 19, and Catherine Parente, 11, were discovered Monday afternoon inside a Sheraton hotel in Towson, Md., police said Tuesday.
Cpl. Michael Hill of Baltimore County police said he believed the Parentes were visiting Stephanie, a student at Loyola College in Baltimore.
Hill declined to specify the manner of death, where the bodies were found, and who committed suicide. He ruled out stabbing and gunshots as causes of death. The investigation is ongoing.
"Even last night we could not say it was a murder-suicide or even a homicide," Hill said. "Overnight they came up with enough evidence to say definitively."
William Parente was an attorney, Hill said.
He did not have details on Betty Parente, but a friend said she was on the board of the Tri Town Auxiliary of United Cerebral Palsy of Nassau. Betty Parente also volunteered with the Girl Scouts and the American Cancer Society, said Lucille Messina, auxiliary president.
The Parentes were "the most wonderful, beautiful, adorable people. This is impossible, impossible," Messina told The Associated Press through tears.
"I can't believe this. She's the sweetest lady you'd ever want to meet," Messina said of Betty Parente. "You'd fall in love with her instantly."
Stephanie Parente was a Loyola sophomore who lived on campus.
"This is a moment of unimaginable sorrow for the entire Loyola family," said college president, the Rev. Brian F. Linnane, in a letter to the Loyola community. The school will hold a special Mass at 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Catherine Parente was a sixth-grade student in Garden City, according to a statement sent out by the school district.
Friends and neighbors in the Parente's First Street neighborhood across from the Cherry Valley Golf Course said the family was spiritual and religious, and the apparent murder-suicide came as a complete shock.
Robert Krener, 64, the next-door neighbor who sold the family its ranch-style house with a swing set in its backyard, said his family and the Parentes frequently had dinner together and exchanged presents and pastries.
"They were just the most wonderful family," he said. "All I heard was laughter and fun."
Betty Parente's best friend Marianne Quinn, 53, said William Parente had been depressed over the death of his mother about a year ago. The first-year anniversary of the death was about a week ago.
Quinn called the two daughters "beautiful," and noted that Stephanie Parente was a devout Christian.
"She was a God-loving person. She attended Mass almost daily and said the rosary almost daily," said Quinn, who also taught Catherine Parente in nursery school at the Garden City Coop.
Next-door neighbor Mary Opulente Krener described the family as "wonderful" in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
"I can't tell you how heartsick I am," she said. "This is the most wonderful family, the most kind and loving family. I'm astounded."
The Parentes had breakfast together Sunday, and some employees at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson, a Baltimore suburb, recall seeing some of the family members later that day, Hill said at a news conference.
Hotel staff found the bodies Monday afternoon in a locked guest room after the occupants hadn't checked out as expected.
Hill said the hotel room door was latched from the inside.
"This is just a terrible tragedy and our team is terribly saddened by this event," said K.C. Kavanagh, spokeswoman for Sheraton Hotels and Resorts. "We're doing all we can to assist the police and it's a matter that's in their hands at this time."
The bodies were taken to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Baltimore for autopsies Tuesday, police said.
Staff writer Matthew Chayes contributed to this story, which was supplemented with reports from The Baltimore Sun and The Associated Press.