SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Neighbors first called police to report a domestic violence incident. But even before police arrived, a second frantic call came in that three children appeared to be dead inside a California apartment.
Police rushed in late Wednesday and found the bodies of 11-year-old Kelvin Hodges, 9-year-old Julie Hodges and Lucas Hodges, who was born in January and was a few days shy of eight months old.
Their father, 33-year-old Robert Hodges, had disappeared, police said. Their mother, identified by her employer as Mai Hodges, was traumatized, said West Sacramento police Sgt. Roger Kinney – the victim of an assault by her husband, the father of her three children.
He said the mother was close by when the killings occurred but didn’t witness them.
Life-saving efforts failed to revive the children, and police put out a bulletin for Hodges. About three hours later, two California Highway Patrol officers found him sitting in his vehicle parked on the shoulder of Interstate 80 about seven miles away.
“He was just sitting,” said Officer Chad Hertzell, a CHP spokesman. “No crash, nothing like that, no chase. He was just pulled over.”
He had no apparent weapons and surrendered peacefully to the officers, who had recognized Hodges and his vehicle from the broadcast descriptions, Hertzell said.
Yolo County Chief Deputy Coroner Gina Moya said the results of autopsies that could show how the children were killed are expected to be released Friday.
Hundreds of people gathered at a vigil for the children Thursday night at an elementary school, leaving candles, stuffed animals and signed cards in their honor.
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. He has no apparent attorney as yet.
The slayings left his relatives and neighbors pondering what might have gone wrong in a family they said seemed happy, with no sign of turmoil.
The children’s great-grandmother, Irene Aiello of West Sacramento, said relatives were unaware of any previous marital disputes between the couple, who had been married more than a dozen years.
“We don’t understand what happened, we really don’t,” Aiello said. “Everything appeared to be OK” between the couple.
Grief counselors responded to Thunder Valley Casino northeast of Sacramento, where Mai Hodges worked as a cashier, and to Southport Elementary School, where two of the children attended.
“It’s just unbelievable. I mean, what’s the explanation?” said William Crawford, who said he had a friendly relationship with his neighbors across the hall. “He must have went crazy. You’d have to be crazy to do something like that.”
Neighbors and officials organized a candlelight vigil at the school, while a makeshift memorial sprouted outside the family’s second-floor apartment in a quiet, neatly maintained apartment complex with a gated driveway.
“I never heard them fight, never heard the parents argue, ever,” Crawford said. “I got the impression he loved his kids, got the impression the kids loved their dad.”
Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press photographer Rich Pedroncelli contributed from West Sacramento.
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