Police: Father Suffocated Family at Baltimore County Hotel Before Killing Self

By Julie Bykowicz
Baltimore Sun
Thursday, April 23, 2009

The phone in the Parentes' 10th-floor hotel room rang just before midnight. By then, a mother and two daughters staying there had been beaten and suffocated by the man who answered the phone. Not long after taking that call -- from a college roommate of his older daughter's -- the father used a knife to commit suicide.

Baltimore County police sketched a timeline yesterday for the murder-suicide of a Long Island, N.Y., family in a room at the Sheraton hotel in Towson. Officials described methodical slayings over a period of hours Sunday but no clearly defined motive because the killer left no suicide note.

William Parente, a 59-year-old lawyer, suffocated his family members one by one, probably beginning with his wife, Betty Parente, a 58-year-old homemaker and charity fundraiser. Catherine Parente, 11, was probably killed soon afterward. Then came Stephanie Parente, a 19-year-old sophomore who had abandoned her studies at Loyola College late Sunday afternoon to make the five-mile trip to the hotel, police say they believe.

Their bodies were laid out on a king-sized bed. William Parente's body was found in the bathroom; he killed himself sometime after midnight, authorities said. Police said that there were no obvious signs of struggle or that anyone had been drugged or restrained.

"We continue to interview family, friends and work associates to determine the motive and the circumstances behind these violent acts," Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson said.

Johnson said William Parente faced allegations of "questionable financial dealings." County police are forwarding information, which Johnson would not describe, to the FBI's New York office. Monica McLean, an FBI spokeswoman in New York, said the agency is reviewing what the county police provided to it.

Another FBI spokesman in New York said an investigation into Parente's financial dealings is underway. Also, a lawyer in Queens has written to the New York state attorney general's office to allege he was defrauded by Parente.

Police said it was not unusual for the Parentes, a Catholic family with Italian roots in Brooklyn, to make the 212-mile drive from Garden City, N.Y., to Maryland to see Stephanie, who was a speech pathology major and a coxswain on the Loyola men's rowing team. She was studious, friends said, and wanted to be a dentist.

The family checked in to the Sheraton Baltimore North on April 15 and was scheduled to check out Monday morning.

Stephanie was surprised by her family's visit, said friend and fellow sophomore, Gabrielle Paige, 19, because Loyola had just resumed classes a day earlier. But the visit was ordinary, Stephanie's friends said.

The family had breakfast together Sunday near campus, a Loyola spokeswoman said, and Stephanie came back to her dorm room afterward and was planning to study with friends for a chemistry exam.

But she was nowhere to be found Sunday night, although her chemistry book lay open on her dorm-room desk. She wasn't answering her cellphone, and friends were concerned enough to call the hotel, Paige said.

One of Stephanie's roommates got through to the room about midnight, and William Parente told her that Stephanie would be staying the night with the family.

The discovery of the Parentes' bodies came a little more than a year after a father was charged in the drowning deaths of three children in a bathtub at a downtown Baltimore hotel and two days after five members of a Frederick County family were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide. The father in that case was in debt and wrote about his financial pressures in suicide notes.

Johnson said at the news conference yesterday that anyone with emotional or mental health problems should reach out to police, family members or the religious community.

Baltimore Sun reporter Stephen Kiehl contributed to this report.

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