FREDERICK, Md. — A Maryland father who shot his wife and three children to death and then killed himself struggled with depression, had $450,000 in debt and nearly decapitated his kids after they had died, Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins said Tuesday.
In six notes left behind, Christopher Wood, 34, discussed his family's severe financial problems and remorse for what he had done. Then, he committed suicide. A relative found the family Saturday in their Middletown home in northwest Maryland.
It was the first of two murder-suicides in Maryland in the last four days, and among a growing number nationwide in which a shooter killed family members in the wake of economic hardship.
Wood had a good job, making $97,000 a year as an account manager in the sales and marketing group at CSX Corp. in Baltimore. But the family couldn't sell their previous home in Florida, and they had credit card problems.
Wood shot his children _ Chandler, 5, Gavin, 4, and Fiona, 2 _ and his wife as they slept. He almost cut off his children's heads using a kitchen knife and pruning saw, the sheriff said.
"I can't make sense of any of this," Jenkins said.
In the notes, Jenkins said Wood apologized and wrote of his love for his family, including his wife, Francie Billotti-Wood, 33. She grew up in the Middletown area and volunteered at a Catholic church that her parents helped found.
The family moved from Florida to West Virginia, then to Maryland, where they rented the home, after Wood was transferred. In a blog under her name, Billotti-Wood said she thrived on the excitement of change, but her husband didn't handle it as well.
"Chris is trying to adjust but he is having a hard time with the new job which makes him more of a major player at work," a March 16 entry read.
Wood shot his family with a small caliber gun, all in the head, sometime Thursday night or Friday morning. All but the youngest child were shot multiple times. The boys were found in their beds. Billotti-Wood and her daughter were in the master bedroom.
Wood spoke to a baby sitter who came to the home about 9 a.m. Friday to check on plans that night. The sheriff said the baby sitter didn't notice anything unusual. Investigators think a short time later Wood went to the master bedroom and killed himself with a shotgun.
The sheriff said the notes showed that Wood regretted what he had done.
"He was trying to somehow identify and express that regret in notes until finally he made the decision to take his life," Jenkins said.
The family did not have a history of domestic problems and Wood did not have a criminal record, Jenkins said.
The sheriff said the sixth note written by Wood described his "day-to-day stresses," frustrations and financial difficulties. Wood also detailed a number of medications he had tried to deal with depression, but felt he was getting worse.
Relatives issued a statement Tuesday. "Chris and Francie shared a love for each other that was evident in their daily lives and interactions with others," the statement said. "Their devotion to their children was apparent to anyone even modestly acquainted with the family."
A funeral for the family has been set for Friday.