Depressed mother and four daughters found hanged in wardrobe

Stunned .hs.hs. three women walk through the rain to the
mobile home in Hudson Oaks, Texas, where the mother and her
children were found.

Stunned .hs.hs. three women walk through the rain to the mobile home in Hudson Oaks, Texas, where the mother and her children were found.
Photo: AP/Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

Gretel Kovach in Hudson Oaks, Texas
May 31, 2007

A WOMAN who was struggling with depression apparently hanged her four young daughters in their mobile home in northern Texas before hanging herself.

The youngest child, an eight-month-old baby, survived and was listed in good condition at a hospital in Fort Worth. She was found on Tuesday hanging from her neck by a jumper sleeve in a bedroom wardrobe beside her sisters, aged two, three and five, and their mother, Larry Fowler, the sheriff of Parker County said.

The mother, Gilberta Estrada, a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant, had called a family friend twice in the early hours of Tuesday before her body was found about 6.30am in a mobile home park about 40 kilometres west of Fort Worth.

Ms Estrada sounded distraught "but I had no idea she would do this", said the friend, Filly Echeverria, who was also the girls' godmother.

Relatives said Ms Estrada had been depressed in recent months after separating from her husband. Sheriff Fowler said she had obtained a restraining order against the man in August over domestic violence.

Ms Estrada's body was found by her sister, Alejandra Estrada, who lives across the street in the Oak Hill mobile home park, near the town of Hudson Oaks, after she failed to report for her morning shift at a fast food restaurant.

She forced open the front door of the home, which had been tied shut as usual, and found the youngest child hanging but alive. The others were suspended in a row beside her amid clothing still hanging from a long piece of wood behind a sheet.

No suicide note was found.

Maria Argelia Martinez, 48, a friend who used to work with Ms Estrada as a maid, said she visited about three weeks ago. At the time, Ms Estrada admitted her problems were stacking up.

"We knew she was sad, but we didn't know how large her sadness was," Ms Martinez said.

Laura Martinez, 39, a neighbour whose two-year-old granddaughter used to play with Ms Estrada's children, said: "She was always smiling. We never saw her do anything bad to the children."

In the muddy dirt behind the old brown and white mobile home, a pink bicycle and a broken stroller were upended in the rain as stunned relatives gathered across the street.

The New York Times