'Everything appeared to be OK' between man who allegedly killed his 3 kids and their mother
In this photo released Thursday Sept. 14, 2017, by the Yolo County, Calif., Jail is Robert Hodges, 33. (Yolo County Jail via AP)
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Three children, one a baby, were killed inside a California apartment by their father following a domestic violence altercation with his wife, authorities said Thursday.
California Highway Patrol officers arrested Robert Hodges, 33, on Interstate 80 in neighbouring Sacramento at around midnight Thursday, said West Sacramento police Sgt. Roger Kinney.
The children were killed at the family’s apartment after 9 p.m. PDT Wednesday. Police and first responders tried life-saving measures on the children, but all three were pronounced dead at the scene. Police have not revealed how the children were killed.
West Sacramento Police Sgt. Roger Kinney said the mother was a victim of domestic violence but that he didn’t know the extent of her injuries.
He said she did not witness Hodges kill the children as it was initially reported. Sacramento television station KCRA earlier reported that Kinney told the station the woman had witnessed the killings.
Kinney said investigators told him “she was in close proximity.”
Hodges is being held without bail for a Monday court appearance, with charges likely to be announced that morning, said Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven.
The mother is Mai Hodges, who works as a cashier at Thunder Valley Casino northeast of Sacramento, said casino spokesman Doug Elmets. The casino was offering grief counselling for employees, whom Elmets said are “shocked by the senselessness of the tragedy.”
The children’s great-grandmother said relatives were unaware of any previous marital disputes.
The couple had been married more than a dozen years and had an 11-year-old boy, a 9-year-old girl and another boy, born in January, said Irene Aiello of West Sacramento.
“We don’t understand what happened, we really don’t,” she said. “Everything appeared to be OK” between the couple.
She said the grandparents have yet to speak to Hodges or his wife.
“Obviously, she’s traumatized, and it’s going to take some time to find out what’s going on,” Kinney said of the mother.
Neighbours called 911 to report a domestic violence incident, and as police were on the way to the apartment, someone called again to report the children were possibly dead, he said.
A makeshift memorial sprouted outside the family’s second-floor apartment in a quiet, neatly maintained apartment complex with a gated driveway.
Simon Morales came by to light three candles, one for each of the children. He said he and his family, who live nearby, saw and heard the lights, sirens and circling helicopter as police rushed to the scene late Wednesday, and later learned that one of the victims is a friend of his daughter.
“I know the mom is going through a lot herself,” he said.
Washington Unified School District said in a statement that a candlelight vigil was planned for Thursday night at Southport Elementary School, where two of the children attended. Counselors had been brought in to assist students and teachers and Thursday’s regularly scheduled school board meeting was cancelled because of what the district called the “senseless tragedy.”
William Crawford had a friendly relationship with his neighbours across the hall the entire time they lived there, about seven years, he said Thursday.
“It’s just unbelievable. I mean, what’s the explanation? He must have went crazy. You’d have to be crazy to do something like that,” said Crawford.
He recalled clowning around for the children, but said their father was initially friendly but grew distant and didn’t respond to his friendly greetings in about the last two years.
“The kids seemed jolly most of the time, seemed happy. I never saw any child abuse or parents fighting or anything like that,” Crawford said. He added that “I never heard them fight, never heard the parents argue, ever....I got the impression he loved his kids, got the impression the kids loved their dad.”
A message left at a telephone number linked to Hodges’ parents was not immediately returned.
“They were beautiful great-grandbabies,” Aiello said.
Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press photographer Rich Pedroncelli contributed from West Sacramento.