MECHANICSVILLE, Va. — Kristi Hooper called her husband’s cellphone on a mild January morning eager to hear her 3-year-old twins squeal with laughter as they gave her a rundown of their morning with their dad.
It was the Saturday morning routine that she and the girls, Caroline and Madison, and her estranged husband established after the couple separated four months earlier.
This time, he didn’t answer.
She called what seemed like a hundred times in between waiting tables at a restaurant.
After work, she drove to her husband’s home. The blinds were drawn. His cars were in the driveway.
As she got to the front door, she could hear an incessant high-pitched beep that sounded like an alarm. She ran to the side door and saw her husband’s van running with a hose attached to the exhaust pipe.
In that moment, even before she followed the hose through the mudroom, up the stairs and into her daughters’ bedroom, she knew what he’d done.
“I always thought he might kidnap the girls,” she says. “I never thought he’d hurt them.”
When a parent deliberately kills a child, the crime — called filicide — captures the attention of a public horrified and fascinated by the violation of a central edict of parenthood: to keep a child from harm.
The issue is back in the news with several recent incidents.
South Carolina dad Timothy Ray Jones has been charged with murdering his five children in September. Police say he confessed to killing them and burying them on a country road in Alabama.
A Georgia father, Justin Ross Harris, waived his arraignment this week, pleading not guilty to murder charges that he intentionally left his 22-month-old son, Cooper, strapped in his car seat for nearly seven hours in a hot SUV in June.
Annually about 450 children are intentionally murdered by a parent.
More than three decades of FBI homicide data shows patterns stand out when parents kill their children: Three out of four child victims are younger than 5. In 56% of all cases, fathers are the killers. In murders with multiple victims, fathers are the culprit 70% of the time.
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