Two children and their mother had been found dead in the Lake in the Hills home in what authorities said appeared to be a double murder-suicide
Authorities announced their findings that the children, Ezequiel Garcia, 11, and his sister Ariana, 8 had been strangled, and that their mother, Carla Lopez-Mejia, 27, had then hanged herself.
"It is so heartbreaking," Klein said. "It brings tears to my eyes as a mom who is supposed to protect her children."
Police in the small McHenry County community said they were called to the town house along Daybreak Drive at about 3 p.m Tuesday, where first-responders found the remains.
Janaya Simmons, who lives in an adjoining town house, said her daughter normally rode the school bus with Ariana but that she didn't show up Tuesday.
Simmons called the Garcia children "full of energy" and said they liked to play outside no matter the weather. She recalled that, after a recent snowfall, her daughter built an igloo with Ariana and Ezequiel, whom Simmons called "Ezzie."
Anthony Romano, 14, another neighborhood boy, said the Garcia children "were very happy."
Simmons said she saw police outside the neighbors' town house Tuesday and later saw the children's father, as well as Lopez-Mejia's mother and brother, outside the home appearing distraught.
"Whatever happened is a tragedy. ... I really feel bad for the kids because they really didn't deserve that," she said. "It's just a sad day here in Lake in the Hills."
Ezequiel was in sixth grade at Marlowe Middle School and Ariana was a third-grader at Martin Elementary School. Both buildings are located at Reed Road Campus, which can be seen from the town house complex where the children lived.
Huntley Community School District 158 posted a statement Wednesday of condolence to the family. Spokesman Dan Armstrong said parents of the Garcia children's classmates were notified directly to allow them the chance to talk to their children. The two school principals also spoke directly to the Garcia children's classmates and counselors were made available.
"This terrible tragedy has affected all of us in the Huntley 158 family, and the grief that accompanies news such as this will take time to process as students, staff, and the community all attempt to come to terms with it," said the online statement from Superintendent John Burkey.
"Students will respond to this tragedy in different ways, and it is important for both schools and families to support them. Any reaction is normal in the grieving process and can range from withdrawal to crying to anger. It's important for us as adults to listen carefully to our children and help them through their reactions and feelings regarding this tragedy," the statement said.
There were few immediate clues to suggest what might have led to the gruesome turn of events. Neighbors said Lopez-Mejia was quieter and less sociable than her children's father. A Facebook page appearing to be hers said she had studied at McHenry County College. Posts included inspirational quotes from Nelson Mandela: "It always seems impossible until it's done," and "May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears." Another post read: "I have a past, but I don't live there anymore."
Last June, Lopez-Mejia filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to address unpaid debts, and her case was closed by September, records indicate.
While debt is stressful, her attorney, Steve Costello, said his clients are usually happy to get it resolved.
"We were all scratching our heads as to why something like this would happen," he said. "She seemed very nice and generally happy."
Mark La Ferlita, 18, lives across the street from the family and said he often saw Ariana playing with her cat.
"She was nice ... a sweet kid," he said. "They were cute kids, so sweet, real respectful."
La Ferlita said he was "shocked" when he saw all the commotion Tuesday night and police breaking down the door. He said such events "don't happen around here."
"I'm sad," he said. "I always took for granted them being here, seeing them outside."
La Ferlita said it was hard to understand what happened.
"That's your family," he said. "That is something you have to cherish."
Mother strangled her 2 kids, hanged herself in suburban home: coroner Amanda Marrazzo Robert McCoppin Chicago Tribune Jan 11 2017Tweet