A Florida mother is in mourning after her 3-year-old daughter was killed by her estranged husband in what police are investigating as a murder-suicide, according to multiple news reports.
After days of being unable to reach her estranged husband and their daughter, Ela, Laurel Friedman worryingly called Temple Terrace police and asked them to check on the pair, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Ela had been staying with her father, 48-year-old Ayhan Aytes, who shared custody of her with Friedman.
But when police arrived at Aytes’ Skylake Place apartment on Monday afternoon, they made a gruesome discovery: the bodies of Ela and her father, according to local TV stations WFLA and WTVT. Police believe the girl had been killed by her father before he killed himself.
“Anytime a child is involved in a crime, it’s heartbreaking,” police spokeswoman Laurie Hayes told WFLA.
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Aytes, who was born in Turkey, married Friedman in Polk County in 2012, the Times reports. This January, the couple filed for divorce but worked out a parenting agreement for Ela that allowed both to share custody of her.
According to his professional website, Aytes was a media and communications scholar working on a book. He is listed on the University of South Florida‘s website as an assistant visiting professor at the Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications. His contract at the school ended in May, a USF spokesperson told Bay News 9.
The couple previously lived in Istanbul but moved to the Tampa Bay area after political uprising led to a failed coup d’état, Friedman’s father, Barry Friedman, told the Times.
“We were glad they got back to the states,” Barry said.
On Monday afternoon, Laurel’s family released a brief comment, according to Bay News 9 and the Times: “Our family is devastated at the loss of our beloved Ela. At this point we need time to grieve together and we ask for privacy. We hope to have a statement as we begin to comprehend this horrific event. Thank you for your consideration.”
An autopsy is reportedly being conducted by the Hillsborough County medical examiner.
Temple Terrace and USF officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.