msnbc.com news services
updated 9/20/2010 1:37:53 PM ET 2010-09-20T17:37:53

A father accused of shooting his three children to death as they slept had previously threatened to kill or hurt himself if he lost visitation rights, an attorney said.

After Mohammed Goher's two daughters, ages 14 and 7, and a 12-year-old son were killed Sunday, authorities said Goher shot himself in the mouth in an apparent suicide attempt. He was in fair condition Monday at Ben Taub Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Goher was charged with three counts of capital murder, said Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Jamie Wagner. It was unknown whether he had an attorney.

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He is divorced from the children's mother, Norma Goher, but had court-ordered visitation rights, according to the statement. Records show he was convicted in 2006 of beating his wife, who lived in a shelter for battered women.

The father's visitation rights were to be the subject of a court hearing in Houston later this month. Syed Izfar, appointed by the court to represent the children in the hearing, told the Houston Chronicle he was going to suggest Goher receive standard visitation.

Izfar did not immediately return phone calls from The Associated Press.

On Friday, as had been the custom since the Gohers' separated, the children went to stay with their father at his apartment, which is attached to a convenience store where Goher worked, about three miles south of Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport.

He was to have returned them Sunday afternoon to their mother, who had custody of the children during the week, authorities said.

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"By all appearances, this was a man who loved his children. What a nightmare," Izfar told the Chronicle. "He had it in his mind that the children would be taken away from him forever."

The 47-year-old father had threatened to kill or hurt himself if he lost visitation, Izfar said, adding that he was unaware of Goher ever harming the children.

On Sunday morning as the children slept, Goher got out a handgun, authorities said. Harris County Homicide Sgt. Ben Beall told the Chronicle Goher shot one of his girls in a bedroom and his son and other daughter who were asleep in another room. Then, Beall said, Goher shot himself.

According to the Harris County Sheriff's office, Goher was expected to survive.

A family friend visiting from Pakistan reported seeing Goher with a handgun and fled the apartment, the Chronicle reported. Neighbors did not return telephone messages by The Associated Press.

One neighbor, Julio Rodriguez, told the Houston Chronicle that he dialed 911 after he saw a woman screaming when she left the apartment at the time of the shooting.

"I heard her screaming, "Gun! Gun! Shoot! Shoot!' I got scared because I knew there were kids in there," he said.

Muhommad Riaz, Goher's co-worker at a convenience store near his apartment building, told the Chronicle that he had spoken with Goher Saturday. He found him to be upset over the upcoming court date and the fear of losing his visitation rights, Riaz said.

Goher said "everyone was lying" about him having a violent temper, Riaz told the newspaper

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