Police are still looking for a motive in the murder-suicide of a family of four in Mt. Airy, Md., after having confirmed that the husband and father killed his family, then himself.
Charles L. Dalton, Sr., 38, who worked the night shift as a maintenance worker for Montgomery County Schools, shot his wife, Jennifer A. Dalton, 37, and his children, Charles L. Dalton, Jr., 14, and Emmaline E. Dalton, 7, in their sleep and then used the same shotgun to commit suicide sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning, investigators said.
Jennifer Dalton was found lying in bed in the master bedroom. Charles Dalton Sr. was found lying next to the bed. A .12 gauge pump shotgun was found next to his body.
Several friends and neighbors stopped by the Dalton’s home to pay their respects Saturday evening adding cards and flowers to a makeshift memorial. Many of them said they were overwhelmed by the sudden loss of a family they knew as “churchgoing and kind.”
“Just sweet, great kids, devout church going family. People are trying to put the pieces together. Just trying to figure out how this could have happened,” said Randy Hull, a neighbor.
“When my momma told me he was dead, I had a little bit of tears coming down because she was one of the best people I knew,” said Sarah Turton, a friend of Emmaline Dalton.
The family dog, a beagle, was also found dead. The dog had been shot while in a crate inside the front door of the home, which had been put up for sale. The light blue, split-level ranch with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, was "just reduced" to $269,900, according to an online real estate listing.
Troopers have not found a suicide note, but according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore, the cause of death for Mrs. Dalton and her children was murder; for Charles Dalton, Sr., it was suicide. Each person died of a single gunshot wound to the head.
On Friday, when Jennifer Dalton didn't show up for her part-time job at a veterinary hospital in Damascus, some of her colleagues called her home and cell phone beginning at 8:30 a.m., but there was no answer. One of her co-workers stopped by the house at 2:15 p.m. Friday, but also got no response.
Charles Dalton Jr. was in ninth grade. He was on the freshman football team at Linganore High School in Ijamsville. He was also a junior firefighter at the Mt. Airy Volunteer Fire Company, the same company that responded to his home Friday.
A Facebook page has been put up in memory of the freshman, R.I.P. Charlie Dalton. There were 125 members as 4 p.m. Saturday.
Emmaline Dalton was a second grader at Twin Ridge Elementary School.
There was no school Friday in Frederick County. Area schools are also closed on Monday, but crisis teams will be at both Linganore and Ijamsville on Tuesday, said Marita Loose, public information officer for Frederick County Schools.
In addition to his work for Montgomery County Schools, Charles Dalton Sr. was self-employed as a carpenter and cabinet maker.