A Honduran immigrant family of seven was found Dec. 18 in Moorhead, Minnesota, after they all died of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to a Wednesday press release from police.
Police Chief Shannon Monroe said at a Wednesday press conference that relatives notified the Moorhead Police Department after discovering the bodies on Dec. 18 at around 7:50 p.m. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s office found a lethal level of carbon monoxide toxicity in the victims’ bloodstreams.
Police identified the victims as 37-year-old Belin Hernandez, 34-year-old Marleny Pinto, 32-year-old Eldor Hernandez Castillo, 19-year-old Mariela Guzman Pinto, 16-year-old Breylin Hernandez, 7-year-old Mike, and 5-year-old Marbley, according to a Dec. 20 post. Five of the victims were found in their beds, while Belin and Marleny were found lying on their bedroom floor.
Monroe said that detectives worked with the Moorhead Fire Department, the State Fire Marshal’s office, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate the case. He said the medical examiner’s office suspected carbon monoxide poisoning because the victims were red in color and lab tests later confirmed it to be the cause of death.
Police said that investigators discovered a furnace located inside the garage with an “exterior intake for fresh air” and a Kia van with a dead battery and a half-full gas tank. Mechanics tested the vehicle and told authorities that the alternator worked correctly.
Detectives, along with the State Fire Marshal and an HVAC official, examined the furnace for malfunctions that could have led to the victims’ deaths however, the professionals concluded that the furnace was working properly.
Monroe also said that the victims were dressed in light clothing which led detectives to believe that the furnace “was heating sufficiently.” When law enforcement officials arrived, the home’s temperature was 54 degrees and only the furnace fan was on, according to Monroe.
Police said detectives found a carbon monoxide detector in the laundry room cabinet but it did not have a battery.
The family’s blood samples are being studied in a separate lab to look for hydrogen cyanide, which comes from the exhaust of a motor vehicle. Those test results could take up to eight weeks to complete and will further determine the possible cause of the poisoning.