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DNA confirms remains are Benitez

Gina Gallucci and Nicholas C. Stern
Frederick News-Post Staff

(4/4) Three hundred and seventy-two days after her four children and husband were found dead in their Danielle Drive townhouse, Deysi Benitez's remains were positively identified through DNA evidence Wednesday by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore.

The cause of death is believed to be asphyxia, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said. Detective Jeff Norris said the remains had no signs of trauma.

"At this point, all indications are that this was a domestic homicide," Jenkins said.

Jenkins, Norris, Frederick Police Department Chief Kim Dine and Detective Sgt. Bruce DeGrange announced the DNA findings during a joint press conference Thursday morning at the Law Enforcement Center.

On Feb. 29, a real estate agent who was surveying a wooded property near Saint Anthony's and Helmer roads in Emmitsburg found the skeletal remains of the 25-year-old Hispanic woman.

An autopsy performed several days later revealed the remains belonged to a woman believed to have been about 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed between 125 and 140 pounds, which fit the description posted under Benitez's FBI missing person description. The remains had been at the site for almost a year.

In March 2007, Benitez's husband, Pedro Rodriguez, 28, found out he would be out of a job soon. The Frederick-based door manufacturing company that employed him, Masonite International Corp., was set to close in several months.

"We know there were some family issues," DeGrange said. "We also know there were some financial issues. They weren't getting along real well."

Benitez was last seen by a neighbor March 18, 2007. Two of the couple's four children were absent from Hillcrest Elementary School several days prior to a liaison worker being sent to their home to check on them March 26, 2007.

When no one answered knocks on the door, officers with the Frederick Police Department were called and made the gruesome discovery.

The four children, Elsa, 9, Vanessa, 4, Angel, 3, and Carena, 1, were found dead tucked into beds. Rodriguez was hanged by a rope tied to a second-floor banister.

Police later determined Rodriguez killed his children.

The three girls each died from suffocation while Angel died from blunt force trauma to the head. Rodriguez's death was ruled a suicide.

Benitez was nowhere to be found and a massive investigation was launched in order to find her.

The search ended Wednesday and DeGrange said there is no indication that anyone else was involved in her death beside Rodriguez.

"We're not sure if we will ever be able to know," DeGrange said, "what was going on in Pedro's mind."

Homicide investigation begins

While the missing person case is closed, a new homicide investigation is beginning, DeGrange said.

Detectives from both agencies searched the couple's minivan at an undisclosed location Thursday afternoon and removed several items as evidence.

They will be trying to put together a timeline of Benitez's last days.

A bank foreclosed on the house and it is now the property of a holding company, DeGrange said. The company agreed not to sell the house until police finish the investigation.

He did not know if investigators would go back for addition evidence, but the company said they can if they need to do so.

"It has been a long investigation," DeGrange said, "and it is still continuing."

On Thursday morning, General Consul for El Salvador Ana Margarita Chavez said she had to wait for an official copy of Benitez's death certificate to notify family members in the United States and in El Salvador.

Benitez has a sister, Miriam, who lives in Frederick, and one in El Salvador, Angela, Chavez said.

After someone from the family signs documents confirming seeing the death certificate, Benitez's remains can be sent to El Salvador, Chavez said.

"I think that even though she's dead, it's better for the family to finally know something about her," Chavez said. "For them to live with this doubt was horrible."

Returning the remains

Benitez's remains are at the medical examiner's office but it is believed that they will be sent to her hometown of Sensuntepeque, El Salvador for burial, DeGrange said.

The town's Mayor Jesus Edgar Bonilla Navarrete said he was surprised and saddened to learn of Benitez's death Thursday morning when members of her family told him that the remains were hers.

Navarrete said that he was helping the Benitez family with some of the necessary paperwork to bring her body back to El Salvador.

In some ways, Navarrete said, it makes the case more difficult to determine what happened, as she is not alive to give her testimony.

Her sister, Angela Benitez, agreed and said she wondered who was killed first.

On the one hand, Angela Benitez said, she was relieved that the authorities found her sister's body. But on the other, because she hadn't communicated with her sister this past year, she had kept up hope she was still alive.

Now, Angela Benitez said, she is trying to figure out how to bring the body of her sister to rest in a family shrine.

"I want the remains of my sister here," she said.

Vile list of all past articles by the Frederick News Post on this murder

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