Texas mother hangs self, three daughters
Los Angeles Times
May 30, 2007
HUDSON OAKS, TEXAS — A young mother who may have
been depressed apparently hanged three of her small daughters and
herself in a closet using pieces of clothing and sashes, authorities
A fourth child, an 8-month-old daughter, was also
found dangling in the closet of the family's mobile home but was
rescued by the woman's sister.
"It's horrendous. That's all I can say," Parker
County Sheriff Larry Fowler said.
The woman was identified as Gilberta Estrada, 25.
The infant, Evelyn Frayre, was in good condition at a hospital, Fowler
said. Authorities did not immediately identify the other children, but
Fowler said they were apparently ages 5, 3 and 2.
Filly Echeverria, who said she was the children's
godmother, identified the dead as Maria Teresa Estrada, Janet Frayre
and Magaly Frayre.
After Estrada failed to show up for work, her
sister, who lived nearby, forced her way into the locked residence in
the Oak Hills mobile home park, about 25 miles west of Fort Worth in
this rural community of 1,600 people.
Alejandra Estrada discovered that the baby was
alive when the child made a noise, authorities said. She called 911.
The sheriff said the hangings appeared to be a
murder-suicide because the mobile home's doors were locked from the
inside and a relative said the woman had been depressed.
The young mother and her girls were last seen alive
Monday evening, he said.
The sheriff said Estrada had won a temporary
restraining order in August against Gregorio Frayre Rodriguez, who was
believed to be the father of the infant and some of the other
children, after he reportedly attacked Estrada.
The sheriff said the couple had stopped living
together in February.
Tuesday was the first emergency police call to
Estrada's mobile home, and authorities said there was no evidence that
Frayre had abused the girls.
"I just got a big kick out of watching the kids
play over there on her porch, and today it's sad, very sad," neighbor
Joyce Harris said as other trailer park residents milled about on
their porches, some crying and talking softly about the deaths.
Estrada's mobile home was dilapidated, with paint
peeling off the sides. Cactuses and a rose bush decorated the front.
Toys and a bicycle littered the backyard.
Texas has had a number of child killings by
About five years ago, another Hudson Oaks family
was torn apart when Dee Etta Perez, 39, shot her three children, ages
4, 9 and 10, before killing herself.
Andrea Yates of Houston drowned her five children
in the family's bathtub in 2001.
In 2003, Deanna Laney beat her two young sons to
death with stones in East Texas, and Lisa Ann Diaz drowned her
daughters in a Plano bathtub.
Dena Schlosser fatally severed her 10-month-old
daughter's arms with a kitchen knife in 2004.
The four women were found innocent by reason of
insanity. Yates initially was convicted of capital murder, but the
verdict was overturned on appeal.
Baby recovering after family's murder-suicide
Mother hangs daughters,
herself - Aunt finds infant girl still breathing, but arrived too late
for the other four
By Thomas Korosec - The
May 30, 2007
HUDSON OAKS — Authorities
suspect a woman who was depressed and struggling to raise her four
small children hanged three of her daughters and herself in a mobile
home closet. An infant was rescued from a makeshift noose.
The triple-child killing was
the second in the past five years in this small North Texas town.
Parker County Sheriff Larry
Fowler identified the mother as 25-year-old Gilberta Estrada.
Filly Echeverria, who said
she was the children's godmother, identified the dead children as
Maria Teresa Estrada, Janet Frayre and Magaly Frayre.
The infant, Evelyn Frayre,
was listed in good condition at a Fort Worth hospital, Fowler said.
Autopsies were to be
performed today, but authorities said they were considering the deaths
murder-suicide because the trailer's doors were locked from the inside
and a relative said the woman had been depressed.
Fowler said there were no
signs of struggling inside the mobile home and no marks on the victims
other than those made by the clothing or cloth strips used to hang
He said there were no stools
or chairs under the bodies hanging in a 10-foot-wide closet in the
middle of the trailer.
Fowler said Estrada appeared
to have hanged herself by tying cloth around her neck and a wood
clothes bar, leaning into the noose and buckling her knees. The
children were arrayed next to her, authorities said.
Investigators said they had
talked to Estrada's estranged common-law husband, Gregorio Rodriguez,
who was brought to the scene.
Estrada had obtained a
protective order against Rodriguez last August in which a judge had
made a finding that Estrada had been a victim of domestic violence.
The couple had been separated since February, authorities said.
The woman's sister, a
neighbor, forced her way into the home past a makeshift lock made with
a rope tied to the doorknob — after someone at the Wendy's fast food
restaurant where Estrada worked called to report she hadn't shown up.
Around 6:30 a.m., she found the bodies of the woman and the children,
ages 5, 3 and 2, Fowler said.
The sister rescued an
8-month-old girl from her makeshift noose when it became apparent she
was still alive. He said she heard crying or gurgling noises coming
from the large closet, which was covered with a bedspread or sheet.
Fowler said the children
were hanged with items such as strips of clothing and sashes. Because
at least one of the children could have set her feet on a lower rail
in the closet and possibly saved herself, investigators said they are
eager to learn whether the children were drugged or otherwise sedated.
Fowler said there was no evidence of drugs or alcohol at the mobile
Authorities suspect the
deaths occurred shortly before the aunt discovered the children
because the baby, who had a sweater sleeve wrapped around her neck,
was still alive.
"My mind can't get around
how this could have happened," said Fowler. "It's horrendous is all I
The woman and her girls were
last seen alive Monday afternoon, Fowler said, when she was seen
playing with the infant outside the trailer.
On Tuesday afternoon, in a
steady rain, all one could see around the brown and white trailer was
a pile of plastic toys. The park is a collection of rusty, weathered
trailers arrayed along a rutted road on the edge of busy Interstate
Olga Martinez, 20, who lives
a few doors down, said Estrada struggled to get by and sometimes went
Martinez said neighbors knew
she was depressed, but she didn't show it Monday afternoon when the
women exchanged hellos as Estrada played with her children.
"One day a family is here
and the next day they're gone," Martinez said. "It's hard to say how
bad I feel."
Another neighbor, Joyce
Harris, recalled happier times at the victims' home. "I just got a big
kick out of watching the kids play over there on her porch, and today
it's sad, very sad," she said.
The town of 1,600, which is
about 26 miles west of Fort Worth on the eastern edge of Weatherford,
has been through this before.
On July 16, 2002, about a
mile away from Tuesday's crime scene, Dee Etta Perez fatally shot her
4-year-old daughter and 9- and 10-year-old sons as they slept before
Texas has seen a rash of child killings by mothers
in recent years.
In 2001, Andrea Yates drowned her five children in
the bathtub of their Clear Lake home. In 2003, Deanna Laney beat her
two young sons to death with stones in East Texas, and Lisa Ann Diaz
drowned her two daughters in a Plano bathtub. Dena Schlosser fatally
severed her 10-month-old daughter's arms with a kitchen knife in 2004.
All four of those women were found innocent by
reason of insanity. Yates initially was convicted of capital murder,
but that was overturned on appeal.
Case worker: Texas mom
wanted new life
By Angela K. Brown, Associated Press
May 30, 2007
HUDSON OAKS, Texas — After gathering the courage
to leave the common-law husband she described as abusive, Gilberta
Estrada was determined to make a better life for herself and her
young daughters just a few years after arriving from Tamaulipas,
Pregnant with her fourth
daughter, she moved into a women's shelter, where she learned to ride
the bus to her doctor's appointments. She got a work permit and began
a job at a fast-food restaurant. Finally, a few weeks after baby
Evelyn was born, she moved into her own mobile home.
"I remember her telling me, 'I
am worth something. I am doing this for me, and I am doing this for my
girls,'" said Evelyn Haro, a case worker at SafeHaven of Tarrant
County. "She said, 'I'm going to be OK.' Her self-esteem was building
Authorities say Estrada
apparently performed a murder-suicide this week inside her locked
trailer, stringing up herself and her four girls using nooses
fashioned from clothing and sashes. Her sister discovered the bodies
Tuesday. The only survivor was 8-month-old Evelyn Frayre, who was
named after the case worker at the shelter where her mother stayed.
Officials said a relative
described Estrada as depressed, but the news stunned the women's
shelter and those who worked with her. Estrada had been planning the
baby's baptism, Haro said, and seemed to have turned her life around.
"Obviously, every client that
comes into the shelter is going to have a difficult time, and at times
she was sad, but she was so eager to do better for her daughters,"
Haro said. "There was nothing to raise a red flag to me. She would
always have a smile, and she loved, loved, loved those little girls."
The infant was released from a
hospital Wednesday to the custody of Child Protective Services, which
will temporarily place her with a foster family. Dr. Kimberly Aaron,
medical director of emergency services at Cook Children's Medical
Center in Fort Worth, called the infant a "miracle."
The doctor attributed the
baby's survival to the fact that she weighed only 20 pounds and that
her neck was protected by fatty tissue that kept it from breaking
while she was suspended in the closet. The baby has no brain damage,
and no-long term problems are expected, Aaron said.
The baby's constant smile,
babbling and bouncing to music charmed the nurses, she said.
"She has a very happy, playful
disposition," Aaron said.
The Tarrant County medical
examiner's office ruled Estrada's death a suicide and the deaths of
Maria Teresa Estrada, 5; Yaneth "Janet" Frayre, 3; and Magaly Frayre,
21 months, all homicides.
Although there were indications
of depression, there was no documented history of suicide attempts and
no evidence of antidepressants in the home, the medical examiner's
office said. There was also no suicide note.
The child's father, Gregorio
Frayre Rodriguez, went to the hospital but was not allowed to see the
baby because of a protective court order issued in August after
Gilberta Estrada claimed he abused her and tried to hit one of the
Contact information for Frayre
listed in court papers appeared to obsolete Wednesday.
Gilberta Estrada claimed Frayre
had been abusive since the couple began living together in 2003, at
times pulling her hair, slapping her, trying to strangle her and once
forcing her to have sex, according to court documents.
In June, he raised his hand to
the oldest child, 5-year-old Maria, when the girls were fighting over
a toy, and then kicked Estrada and pulled the phone out of her hand
when she tried calling 911, according to documents.
About a week after that,
Estrada left Frayre and took her children to a shelter in Weatherford.
Because workers could not speak Spanish, Estrada was sent the next day
to a SafeHaven of Tarrant County shelter in Fort Worth, about 25 miles
Estrada said she stayed in the
abusive relationship because she had been too afraid to call police,
fearing she might be deported because she had entered the country
illegally, Haro said. Estrada said in court documents that Frayre also
was the father of 3-year-old Yaneth "Janet" Frayre and 21-month-old
But while living at the shelter
— which helped her get a work permit — from mid-June to late
September, Estrada's fear of being on her own slowly faded, Haro said.
Estrada left the shelter a few weeks after giving birth to Evelyn in
September, saying she would live in a trailer across the street from
her sister in Hudson Oaks, just outside Weatherford.
Donna Guion, a SafeHaven
attorney who represented Estrada in the child custody case, said
Frayre had not paid the $300 monthly child support since December. But
Guion said Estrada was not depressed by those things.
Just two weeks ago, Estrada
called Haro to ask whether she had received some pictures of the
children. Haro said she asked about the baptism and was told she would
"I'm in shock because that was
the last person I would expect something like that to happen to," Haro
said. "She was my success story. I told her, 'I'm so proud of you.'"