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Family of 5 Is Found Dead, Apparently at Father's Hand

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By Matt Zapotosky and Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, April 19, 2009

MIDDLETOWN, April 18 -- Homicide has come to this tiny town in central Maryland for the first time in at least two decades. Police called to a pale yellow house Saturday found the bodies of a mother, a father and their three small children.

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Authorities said Christopher A. Wood, 34, killed the others and then shot himself. Francie Billotti-Wood, a 33-year-old Sunday school teacher, and the children -- boys 5 and 4 and their 2-year-old sister -- were each shot once in the beds where they were found, police said.

Police had never before been called to the house, and there was no known history of domestic violence, Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins said.

"In my entire career . . . this is probably the worst tragedy I've ever been a part of," he said.

Residents were stunned in Middletown, a community of some 4,000 about 10 miles outside the city of Frederick. Some said that the family seemed happy and that the children often played in the yard with their dog. All agreed that homicides simply do not happen in Middletown.

"It's just a hard thing to believe it happened here," said Richard Griffith, a lifelong resident who could recall no killings during his 61 years.

Richard Dietrick, a town commissioner, said he could think of virtually no violent crime during his 22 years in town. "The worst thing I remember was two years ago someone lit a car on fire -- and they were from out of town," he said. "This is devastating. Way beyond unusual."

Neighbor Peggy Lawrence said Billotti-Wood was well-known for her seasonal house decorations. The family, she said, showed no signs of trouble.

"These were neighbors that were working on their house, creating a good family environment," she said. "Just to see it end so quickly is what's devastating."

In a blog that she maintained, Billotti-Wood described herself this way: "I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a lover of many things, a joiner, a questioner, a truth-seeker and a friend."

Among her recent accomplishments, she listed helping to start an environmental film festival.

The blog names the children as Chandler, apparently the oldest, Gavin and Fiona.


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