A California woman whose estranged husband killed their two young children and then hanged himself around Father’s Day weekend says she “sought help on numerous occasions” before the murder-suicide — without success.
“I know I am not the only person that is or has gone through this horrific unimaginable situation, so please help me spread stories like this to raise awareness that is much needed to help prevent anything like this happening to another family,” Connie Camara said in a statement on Tuesday, one day after authorities discovered the bodies of her son and daughter near where their father, Alvaro Camara, was hanging dead in his Santa Rosa, California, home.
“I sought help on numerous occasions and said many many many times my children were in danger in their [father’s] care and I didn’t receive the urgent help I needed to save them,” Connie said in her statement, which was signed “A mother no longer able to hold her children.”
However, Santa Rosa police say Alvaro had no criminal record and no history of abuse allegations prior to the killings. His sister, Jessica Espada, spoke with local TV station KRON about her brother’s “horrible” actions, saying she could not wrap her head around what he did.
“I just wish he would have [sought] some help or just came to us or something,” Espada said. (Alvaro’s relatives were unavailable for comment to PEOPLE.)
“I just wish he would have done something to prevent all of this.”
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In her statement on Tuesday, Connie said that she was at that moment “swaddled in my daughter’s blanket and drinking tea from a cup that reads ‘I love you mom’, fighting back the tears and struggling to make sense of this horrific situation.”
“They are my precious innocent children that were beyond loved by their family, friends and community,” she said.
A ‘Volatile’ Arrangement
Alvaro and Connie had been together for about eight years before filing for divorce a few months ago.
After the murder-suicide, Santa Rosa police Lt. John Cregan spoke to reporters and said that the department’s “preliminary investigation shows they did have a volatile arrangement following their separation.”
“There have been heated verbal exchanges that we’re aware of,” Cregan said.
Connie has said that she contacted authorities on Sunday night, when her husband failed to meet her to hand off their children, who were visiting him for Father’s Day weekend. She reportedly made phone contact with Alvaro, who said that he was “out of town” but would not specify where or when he would be back.
According to Santa Rosa police Lt. Mike Lazzarini, both Camaras had appeared in civil court on June 14 to hash out a custody agreement that granted Alvaro visitation over the holiday.
Their 6-year-old daughter Juliana, the couple agreed, would stay with her father, but their 18-month-old son, Julian, was to be returned to his mother overnight on Friday and Saturday, Lazzarini says.
He tells PEOPLE that Julian spent both evenings with his mother, who called 911 on Friday asking for help.
“She called because he [Alvaro] was apparently upset over their breakup,” Lazzarini says. “She was mad and he was mad, and she wanted us to check on his welfare and the welfare of the children.”
Authorities apparently made contact with Alvaro, and the dispute was resolved, Lazzarini explains. Her next call for help came Sunday evening, after the kids were not returned to Connie’s care.
Lazzarini says the sheriff’s department in Sonoma County, where Connie lives outside Santa Rosa, responded to the call and “made several attempts” to contact Alvaro.
“They went to his house and he was not there,” Lazzarini says. “Because of his statement that he was out of town, there was no certainty he was there. The house was dark and there was no indication people were inside.”
Deputies left a note for Alvaro and retuned the next morning at 4 a.m. to find that it had not been touched, Lazzarini says. A few hours later, his phone was pinged by authorities, and they learned it was inside the home.
“Since there had been no contact with him, the officers went inside, where they found the bodies,” Lazzarini says. (The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office did not return messages seeking comment.)
Lazzarini says that at no point during the weekend leading up the murder-suicide was there evidence of violence or the threat of violence. Connie did not tell police if Alvaro had ever threatened to harm their children or himself, he says.
When reached by PEOPLE, Connie directed all questions to her attorney, who declined to speak.
According to Lazzarini, Alvaro called child services himself on Sunday to complain about his wife’s living situation, specifically a finished garage on her property, and he was directed to a different county department. (Representatives with child services could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.)
Lazzarini says that, according to the child services employee, Alvaro did not seem to be a threat to his children or himself.