Update: Carbon monoxide poisoning, apparently accidental, killed seven family members whose bodies were found in their home, Minnesota officials said Wednesday.
Ramsey County officials said blood tests showed a lethal level of carbon monoxide, the AP reports. Technicians couldn't find a problem with the furnace that would have caused a leak, the sheriff said. Hydrogen cyanide tests will be conducted on the blood samples to see if the carbon monoxide came from a van parked in the garage; those tests could take eight weeks. "We have not found anything indicating any kind of criminal activity," the sheriff said. Our original story from Tuesday follows:
Relatives of seven family members found dead in a Minnesota home a week before Christmas say they're still waiting to hear how their loved ones died. The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office is analyzing blood samples taken from the victims: Belin Hernandez, 37, and Marleny Pinto, 34; their children Breylin Hernandez, 16, Mike Hernandez, 7, and Marbely Hernandez, 5; Belin's brother Eldor Hernandez Castillo, 32; and the couple's niece Mariela Guzman Pinto, 19, per the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We are shocked. We feel like it's a nightmare," Guzman Pinto's fiance, Alfredo Hutar, told the outlet on Monday, which would've marked Belin Hernandez and Marleny Pinto's 17th wedding anniversary.
"We have more questions than answers," added Hutar. He said the family relocated from Honduras seven years ago and had lived in the newly built duplex in Moorhead, a city of 40,000 on the border with North Dakota, for two years. He added relatives hadn't been allowed inside the home since the bodies were discovered on Saturday. Eric Bravo Mejia, a pastor at Moorhead's Mount Carmel Church, told Valley News Live that he went to the home after receiving a phone call around 7pm local time on Saturday. He said he found Hernandez, Pinto, and their children dead in a single room. "And I went to another room and there was the niece dead. And the uncle. Also dead. All dead," he added. "It's so painful for me."
Police said they were looking at all possible causes of death after a preliminary autopsy "ruled out any obvious trauma." There's been speculation about carbon monoxide poisoning, per KVRR. But "right now it's not about speculation—it's about support for the family and friends," Mayor Shelly Carlson told the Star Tribune. "We're just going to wrap this family in love and prayer and make sure they're cared for." "It's a big hit because I don't have an explanation. I feel that I don't know how I'm going to get over it," Wilfredo Pinto, Marleny's brother, told Valley News Live. "On Wednesday, I was wrapping all of the gifts for all of the kids," his wife, Nolvia, added through tears. More than $13,600 has been raised for the family as of this writing. (Read more Minnesota stories.)