msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/20/2011 2:13:44 AM ET 2011-08-20T06:13:44

Police in Virginia are investigating as a quadruple homicide the deaths of a mother and her three children in a Newport News apartment where a fire was reported earlier Friday.

The Daily Press reported that police were called to the family's home at 2:26 p.m. Friday after someone reported smelling smoke.

Newport News police spokesman Harold Eley said a maintenance worker went inside and found a body.

Police said a teenage girl was burned beyond recognition, and that the other three victims had physical trauma to their bodies.

The Daily Press said police had not named a suspect, but they issued an alert for the woman's husband, John Moses Ragin, 36, and their son, 5, about 9 p.m. Friday. Ragin may be driving a black Saturn.

'No punishment is severe enough'
The paper said the boy was later found unharmed at a relative's home in South Carolina.

Neighbor Lauren Nelbach told the Daily Press the dead woman was in the military and her husband was "trying to be a rapper."

"You would think he would be here," she said.

"I really hope they catch who did it," Nelbach added. "No punishment is severe enough for someone to kill a child."

"It's very sad," another neighbor, Farrah Dye, told WAVY.com. "Anytime children or anyone dies, it's sad, especially children that young."

"It's scary, because we still don't know what happened," Dye added. "She [the dead woman] seemed really nice. She was just a really nice lady. She always spoke to me and they haven't even been over here that long."

Investigators were still trying to determine when the family was killed and how they died.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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