MOORHEAD, Minnesota (AP) – Seven members of an immigrant family from Honduras whose bodies were found in a Minnesota home last weekend have died of apparently accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, said Wednesday authorities.
Relatives of the family discovered the victims on Saturday evening at a house in south Moorhead as they visited them after not hearing from them. Police are still working on a timeline of the deaths, but said the three children who lived there were not in school on Friday.
Officials at the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office in St. Paul’s examined blood samples to determine the cause of death. Those tests showed a deadly level of carbon monoxide, authorities said.
Police chief Shannon Monroe said the carbon monoxide was either coming from the boiler in the house or from a van in the garage. Technicians could not find a fault in the furnace that would have sent carbon monoxide into the house. Moore said further tests were underway to determine if the victims had hydrogen cyanide in their blood, which would indicate the van, and that these tests could take up to eight weeks.
Investigators found that a carbon monoxide detector in the garage had been removed and replaced with a smoke detector only. Monroe said the van had half a tank of gasoline and a dead battery. The chief said that with intentional exposure to carbon monoxide, vehicles are usually found with empty gas tanks.
âThere is no indication of any sort of criminal activity,â Monroe said. “Unless we find something else later in the investigation, right now, that points to some type of accidental situation.”
Family members were identified earlier as Belin Hernandez, 37; Marleny Pinto, 34 years old; Eldor Hernandez Castillo, 32; Mariela Guzman Pinto, 19; Breylin Hernandez, 16 years old; Mike Hernandez, 7, and Marbely Hernandez, 5. They all lived together, police said.
Belin Hernandez and Marleny Pinto were the parents of Breylin, Mike and Marbely; Eldor Hernandez Castillo was Belin’s brother; and Mariela Gusman Pinto was Marleny’s niece, family members said.
The two-story twin house, which officials said was between 5 and 7 years old, had no basement and all bedrooms were upstairs. The furnace was in a separate room inside the garage.
Monroe said the victims wore light clothing, indicating the heat was working. By the time the first responders arrived, the temperature was 54 degrees (12 degrees Celsius) in the house and only the furnace fan was on.
Five of the victims were found in their beds. Belin Hernandez and Marleny Pinto were on the floor in the bedroom.
âMaybe it would look to us like the parents were still awake when this happened,â Monroe said.
Residents of the adjacent unit had no signs of carbon monoxide illness, police said.
Family members who gathered at the home on Monday to share stories described their loved ones as happy people who were relieved to be walking away from the unrest in Honduras. They were in the United States between three and eight years old, a family translator said.
âThey love this community,â Monroe said of the surviving family members. âThey are very happy with the supportive momentum they have seen so far. Just know that these are great members of our community and this is a huge and tragic loss this holiday season. “
Moorhead sits on the Minnesota border, adjacent to Fargo, North Dakota, in a metropolitan area of ââabout 230,000 people.
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