Mount Airy Father Kills Wife, 2 Children, Himself

By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 27, 2009

Maryland State Police have determined that a family of four who were found dead in their Frederick County home Friday were killed in a murder-suicide.

Police said a preliminary investigation indicated that Charles L. Dalton Sr., 38, shot his wife, teenage son and young daughter while they slept in their beds in the family's Mount Airy house, then took his own life sometime between Thursday night and early Friday morning.

An autopsy determined that Dalton's wife, Jennifer Dalton, 37, the couple's son, Charles Jr., 14, and daughter, Emmaline, 7, each died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Police said Charles Dalton was found shot dead next to the bed in the master bedroom, a 12-gauge shotgun by his side. He had apparently also shot the family's dog, a beagle, in its crate near the front door.

State troopers have not found a suicide note and have not identified a motive for the killings.

According to police, Jennifer Dalton failed to show up at her part-time job at a veterinary hospital in Damascus on Friday morning. After attempting to reach her several times, one of her co-workers stopped by the family's home in the 300 block of Contour Road in the afternoon and noticed a body through a window.

Police and neighbors said that Charles Dalton was a night maintenance worker for Montgomery County schools and that he ran his own carpentry and cabinetmaking business. State records list the business as Imagine Millwork, which Dun and Bradstreet describes as a private company with two employees and estimated annual sales of $400,000.

Charles Jr. was in the ninth grade at Linganore High School and a junior firefighter at the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company, the same company that responded to the Dalton home Friday, police and neighbors said. Emmaline was a student at Twin Ridge Elementary, according to neighbors.

State property records indicate that the Daltons moved to the neighborhood from Olney in early 2005.

Jack Gillespie, 55, who lives next door, described the Dalton children as cheerful and well-behaved and their parents as friendly, church-going neighbors. Gillespie said Jennifer Dalton once showed up with a batch of brownies and a smile after the Gillespie's oven caught fire while they were trying to bake brownies.

"It's shocking," he said. "This is the last family you would expect this of."

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