Carbon monoxide causes the death of a Minnesota family: authorities

MOORHEAD – Seven members of an immigrant family from Honduras whose bodies were found in a Minnesota home last weekend have died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, authorities said Wednesday.

Relatives of the family discovered the victims Saturday night in a home in south Moorhead when they went to check after receiving no word from them. Police are still working on the time frame of the deaths but said the three children who lived there did not attend school on Friday.

Officials with the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office in St. Paul examined blood samples to determine the cause of death. Those tests revealed lethal levels of carbon monoxide, authorities said.

Sheriff Shannon Monroe said the carbon monoxide came from the home’s furnace or a truck in the garage. Technicians were unable to find a defect in the furnace that could have caused carbon monoxide to enter the home. Moore said further tests are being done to determine if the victims have hydrogen cyanide in their blood, which will point to the truck, and those tests could take up to eight weeks.

Investigators discovered that a carbon monoxide detector in the garage had been removed and replaced with a smoke-only detector. Monroe said the car was half empty and one battery was dead. In cases of intentional exposure to carbon monoxide, vehicles are often found with empty fuel tanks, the sheriff said.

“There is no indication of any kind of criminal activity,” Monroe said. “Unless we find something else in later investigation, right now it’s heading towards some sort of fortuitous situation.”

Family members previously identified as Belin Hernandez, 37; Marleny Pinto, 34 years old; Eldor Hernandez Castillo, 32 years old; Mariela Guzman Pinto, 19 years old; Breylin Hernandez, 16 years old; Mike Hernandez, 7, and Marbely Hernandez, 5. They live together, police said.

Belin Hernandez and Marleny Pinto are the parents of Breylin, Mike and Marbely; Eldor Hernandez Castillo is Belin’s brother; and Mariela Gusman Pinto are Marleny’s nieces, family members said.

The two-story home, which authorities said is between five and seven years old, has no basement and all bedrooms are upstairs. The kiln is in a separate room inside the garage.

Monroe said the victims were wearing light clothing, suggesting the heat worked. By the time the first responders arrived, the temperature in the house was 54 degrees (12 degrees Celsius) and only the furnace fan was on.

Five victims were found in their beds. Belin Hernandez and Marleny Pinto are on the floor in the bedroom area.

“Maybe for us, the parents were still awake when this happened,” Monroe said.

Residents in the adjoining neighborhood showed no signs of carbon monoxide illness, police said.

Family members gathered at the home on Monday to share stories that describe their loved ones as happy people who feel relief from the turmoil in Honduras. They have been in the United States for three to eight years, a family interpreter said.

“They love this community,” Monroe said of the surviving family members. “They are very pleased with the amount of support they have seen so far. Just know that these are wonderful members of our community and that this is a huge and tragic loss at a holiday season.”

Moorhead on the Minnesota border next to Fargo, North Dakota, in a metropolitan area of ​​about 230,000 people.


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