TOWSON, Md. -- Four members of a family from New York were found in a Baltimore County hotel Monday afternoon.
Housekeepers at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson made the gruesome discovery in a locked guest room. They went to check on guests who had not checked out.
"Is it a homicide-suicide. Is it a joint suicide? We just don't know," Baltimore Police Corporal Mike Hill said Monday night. Police are handling the case as a homicide-suicide. The causes of the deaths have not been revealed, but none of the victims was died from gunshot or stabbing wounds.
The bodies were identified as William Parente, 59; Betty Parente, 58; Stephanie Parente, 19; and Catherine Parente, 11, of the unit-block of First Street, Garden City, N.Y. Stephanie Parente was a sophomore at Loyola College and was on the crew team last year. According to her former coach, she dropped off the team this year.
Courtney Jolley, a spokeswoman for Loyola, said the school planned a Mass for Tuesday night in memory of her and her family.
The killings stunned people in New York who knew the Parentes.
Betty Parente was on the board of the Tri Town Auxiliary of United Cerebral Palsy of Nassau and volunteered with the Girl Scouts and the American Cancer Society, said Lucille Messina, auxiliary president.
The Parentes were "the most wonderful, beautiful, adorable people. This is impossible, impossible," Messina said through tears. "I can't believe this, she's the sweetest lady you'd ever want to meet. You'd fall in love with her instantly."
Next-door neighbor Mary Opulente Krener said in a phone interview that William Parente was a real estate attorney in New York. A call to his office was not immediately returned.
"I can't tell you how heartsick I am," she said. "This is the most wonderful family, the most kind and loving family. I'm astounded."
Jolley said Loyola officials sent a campuswide message to tell students, faculty and staff what had happened and to let them know counseling services were available.
The family had breakfast together Sunday morning, and an employee of the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel saw them together Sunday afternoon, Hill said. That was, to his knowledge, the last time they were seen alive. The hotel is in Towson, about 5 miles north of the Loyola campus.
The Sheraton Hotel, located just off the Baltimore Beltway near both Towson and Goucher Colleges, often serves as a stayover spot for parents and alumni from both schools. Guests staying on the 10th floor, where the bodies were found, were given the option of moving to other rooms in the hotel. Some opted to check out of the hotel altogether.
"We're here to visit Goucher College with my daughter. We're going to another place to stay tonight," one hotel guest said.
Crime scene investigators spent hours examining the hotel room for evidence, while detectives canvassed the 10th floor to see if any other guests had heard or noticed anything unusual.
Just before 7 p.m. Monday, crews towed a silver Mercedes SUV with New York license plates from the hotel parking garage. That tow truck was accompanied by a police escort.
Now police must determine how the four relatives were killed, and why.