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Crime News Breaking News

Connecticut Dad Fainted After Finding His Kids Dead In Alleged Murder-Suicide By Mom

Police suspect that Sonja Loja, a mother of three kids from Danbury, Connecticut, strangled them before taking her own life.

By Jill Sederstrom
A personal photo of Sonia Loja

A Connecticut father was so distraught after discovering his three children dead inside the family’s Danbury home that he “fainted to the ground,” according to his neighbors.

Danbury Police said preliminary findings suggest the children’s mother, 36-year-old Sonia Loja, strangled the children to death before hanging herself in a shed on the property, according to a statement from authorities.

Police identified the children as Junior Panjon, 12, Joselyn Panjon, 10, and Jonael Panjon, 5.

The family's neighbor, Elvis Espinal, told The New York Post that Loja’s husband, Pedro Panjon, had left for his landscaping job early Wednesday morning but became concerned about the family when he wasn’t able to reach his wife all day and called 911 to request a welfare check.

“He called the cops and asked them to do a wellness check and then he came here and he beat the cops here so he went inside and like a couple minutes later he came out and he called 911 and just fainted to the ground,” Espinal said.

Police say they were called to do a welfare check at the home Wednesday around 6:30 p.m. by a man who had been distraught and crying, WFSB reports.

They arrived to find all three children dead inside the home and, after checking the property, Loja was discovered hanging in the shed.

While authorities were still waiting for an official autopsy, they said preliminary findings suggested the children died by strangulation.

According to police, one other family member lived in the house but wasn’t present at the time of the violence; the Post identified him as Loja's brother-in-law.

Loja had allegedly been operating an illegal daycare within the family’s home, but had called the parents of the children she watched that morning to tell them not to come that day.

“Yesterday morning, just before 10, a guy came to drop off his kid and she came to the door and said, ‘No, sorry, I can’t watch him today,” Espinal said. “She explained that she’d called all the rest of them, all the rest of the parents of the kids she watches, and she couldn’t get ahold of one, to tell them not to come that day.”

The Connecticut Office of Early Childhood confirmed to News 12 New Jersey that they had visited the home four times from May to June after getting reports that Loja had been operating the day care without a license. The agency’s last visit had been on June 30 to confirm that she had stopped operating the unlicensed facility.

It’s not clear whether the investigation had any connection to the deaths.

Police described the discovery of the family as “an emotionally damaging incident” for first responders and said they would have counseling services available to those who responded to the grisly scene.

“A truly horrible event occurred in our city yesterday and we mourn the tragic loss of life,” Mayor Dean Esposito said in the statement from police. “In the coming days, mental health and counseling services will be provided through collaboration with the Danbury Public Schools and the City of Danbury. Our community grieves for the innocent lives taken from us.”

Neighbors described the children as “good kids” who had frequently been seen out in the neighborhood, riding their bikes or playing with friends.

“It’s not like we didn’t know or see 'em,” neighbor Tom Neville told WFSB. “They’re always full of pep and them running around and having fun. They were good kids.”

Erna Grenier described the children as “happy” and said that Loja was always outside with her children.

“If anybody was walking by, they would say hi,” she said.

According to Espinal, five-year-old Jonael as the “the nicest little guy.”

“I still have no appetite,” he told The Post of learning of the tragedy. “I’m not in shock, it’s more than shock, it’s like horror or like devastation. I can’t stop seeing the little boy’s face.”

Gabriella Gomez described herself to News 12 New Jersey as a friend of family and said Loja had been great with children.

Her daughter, Shayla, loved to play with 10-year-old Joselyn and had even gone to summer camp with her friend.

The little girl had a heartbreaking final message for the friend she’ll never see again.

“You are good, loving person and you are really good at everything,” Shayla Gomez told the station. “I wish I saw you one more time, but I can’t.”