In Notes Left in Family's Killings, Md. Man Details Debts, Depression

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The man who killed his wife and three young children and then himself in a tiny town in northwest Maryland last week was at least $460,000 in debt and owned a Florida house that was in foreclosure, according to property records and police.

In one of six notes he left scattered about the rented house in Middletown, Christopher Wood, 34, described his financial hardships and his struggle with depression and anxiety -- factors that investigators believe contributed to the killings.

Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins said that about half of the family's debt came from credit cards. The Woods were unable to sell the home in Jacksonville, Fla., and their mortgage was "way beyond their capability to pay," he said.

Records show that the family bought the Florida home in 2005 with virtually no money down, taking on a $208,000 mortgage. The next year, the Woods took out a second mortgage for $108,000.

The bank that holds the initial mortgage filed foreclosure papers in October, records show.

Still, Jenkins said, "no one ever dreamed of anything like this."

At a news conference, authorities released more details about the killings, describing a scene more ghastly than what had been known since the bodies were discovered Saturday morning.

According to investigators, Francie Billotti-Wood, 33, and the couple's 5-year-old son, Chandler, were each shot twice in the head with a .25-caliber handgun. Chandler's younger brother, 4-year-old Gavin, was shot three times; daughter Fiona, 2, was shot once.

After they were shot, their throats were slashed almost to the point of decapitation, officials said. Wood killed himself with a shotgun.

Wood, a youth soccer coach, was paid $97,000 as a sales accountant for CSX. His wife, who taught liturgy to children at their church, stopped working several years ago to be a stay-at-home mother.

Several experts said slayings of entire families by fathers and husbands are often associated with economic hardship. Some men get to the point where it becomes impossible to tell family members that they're going to lose the house or that the kids can't go to college, said Richard J. Gelles, dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice and an expert on family violence.

"If you have built your identity around that you're the breadwinner, you're the backbone, and that becomes unglued, it undermines your sense of self," Gelles said.

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