updated 4/21/2009 6:56:35 PM ET 2009-04-21T22:56:35

A father who shot his wife and three children to death and then killed himself struggled with depression and had $450,000 in debt, a sheriff in Maryland said.

Sheriff Charles Jenkins said Tuesday that Christopher Wood, 34, discussed his family's financial problems in six notes he left behind after he killed himself Friday. The bodies were discovered by a relative a day later in Middletown in northwest Maryland.

The sheriff also said Wood nearly decapitated the three children after they were dead using a kitchen knife and saw.

The sheriff says Wood was making $97,000 a year as an account manager in the sales and marketing group at CSX Corp. in Baltimore, but the family was trying to sell a home in Florida.

The family had moved months ago to the home in Middletown, a community of fewer than 3,000 people west of Frederick, friends said.

Jane Durant, the director of Middletown United Methodist Church Preschool, said she last saw the slain mother, Francis Billotti Wood, on Thursday morning, when she picked up her 4-year-old son at the school.

The boy didn't come to school the next day. Durant, the school's director, thought it was unusual. Now, she wonders if something horrible happened Thursday night.

The dead woman's father found the bodies around 9 a.m. Saturday. He had grown concerned after not hearing from them for several days, Frederick County sheriff's office spokeswoman Jennifer Bailey said.

When investigators arrived at the two-story home, the couple's two sons, ages 5 and 4, lay dead in their beds, while the bodies of a 2-year-old daughter and the mother were in the master bedroom, Bailey said. On the master bedroom floor by the foot of the bed was the 34-year-old father, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, she said.

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