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The bodies of a Florida father and his two children were found inside a burning home last week in what police now suspect is a murder-suicide.
Derick Vasquez, 43, was pronounced dead alongside his 10-year-old daughter, Kailani, and 13-year-old son, Kaeden, following the extinguishing of a residential blaze in Spring Hill on Friday.
On April 10, a woman who had “very serious concerns” about the family’s welfare, received a troubling text from someone inside the home and called 911, law enforcement said. Hernando County Sheriff’s deputies found the family’s property in flames shortly after 10 a.m. on April 10.
Authorities entered the home but quickly retreated after assessing the scope of the fire.
“The first deputy on scene entered the structure, but was forced to exit after becoming overwhelmed by the smoke,” Hernando County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
The blaze, which was “confined to a particular area of the house,” was soon extinguished by firefighters. After that, investigators recovered the bodies of Vasquez and his two children. The three are believed to have been the only people in the house at the time of the fire.
Investigators said Vasquez’s children died as a result of “homicidal violence.” An exact cause of death for either the children or Vasquez hasn’t been released by the county medical examiner’s office.
“It’s a really heart-wrenching story,” Sheriff Hernando County Al Nienhuis told reporters on Friday.
Nienhuis, who was unable to specify how the blaze was ignited, said the case’s investigation is still in its “preliminary stages.”
“The investigation is still very, very, very new — it’s still a very active crime scene,” he said. “The investigation will take days, weeks, or months. We’re still really at the very tip of the iceberg right now trying to figure out what happened.”
However, investigators suspect the murder-suicide may have been fueled by domestic violence.
“This is…at least [the] preliminary investigation seems to indicate that it may have some domestic violence type overtones or domestic issues,” Nienhuis added.
Authorities declined to provide further information.
Nancy MacAlpine, Vasquez’s next door neighbor, said she saw a young woman screaming and crying outside the home prior to authorities arriving on Friday, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
“‘He shot my kids,’” MacAlpine said she heard the woman yell.
The family’s neighbor also confirmed verbal disputes from the home had echoed through their neighborhood in recent weeks.
“Who would think you’d come home one morning and find this happened?” MacAlpine added.
A GoFundMe page organized to raise funds for the family of the deceased children stated that Vasquez was “not in his right state of mind.”
Vasquez’s daughter, Kailani, attended J.D. Floyd Elementary School, loved to cook, and was described by the fundraising page as a “goofball,” who “always had a smile on her face.”
Her “sweet” and “super smart” brother Kaeden was a seventh grader and middle school student, who “loved to draw and create comic books,” the page also stated.
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