Inside her rural, locked home, Gilberta Estrada apparently fashioned nooses for each of her four young children using clothing and sashes.
Then, after each of them was dangling, authorities believe she made one for herself, leaned in, buckled her knees and died.
Her panicked sister, Alejandra Estrada, discovered the bodies Tuesday, after she forced her way into the trailer home when the woman’s boss called to say she hadn’t shown up for work. Pulling back a sheet covering a large closet, she saw the mother and three of the children dead.
The only survivor was an 8-month-old baby, saved by her aunt when she made a noise in her tiny noose, made out of a sweater. She called 911 and said through sobs that the baby was dying — then called back twice more to tell the ambulance to hurry, according to a tape of the calls.
“It’s horrendous; that’s all I can say,” said Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler.
Police investigating the deaths at the Oak Hills mobile home park, about 25 miles west of Fort Worth, said the hangings appeared to be a murder-suicide because the trailer’s doors were locked from the inside and a relative said the woman had been depressed. She also was separated from the father of some the children.
The infant, Evelyn Frayre, was listed in good condition Tuesday at a Fort Worth hospital, Fowler said.
Family seen alive on Monday
The timeline of the deaths wasn’t certain; the 25-year-old mother and her girls were last seen alive Monday evening. Authorities also were trying to determine what caused her actions.
Authorities did not immediately identify the other children, but Fowler said they were apparently ages 5, 3 and 2.
Filly Echeverria, who said she was the children’s godmother, identified the dead as Maria Teresa Estrada, Janet Frayre and Magaly Frayre.
The sheriff said Estrada had won a temporary restraining order in August against Gregorio Frayre Rodriguez, who was believed to be the father of the infant and some of the other children, after an attack on Estrada.
The sheriff said the couple had stopped living together in February. Tuesday was the first emergency police call to Estrada’s trailer, and authorities said there was no evidence that Frayre abused the girls.
A telephone listing for Frayre, 38, could not immediately be located.
Estrada’s trailer was dilapidated, with the brown and white paint peeling off. Cactus plants and a rose bush decorated the front. Toys and a bicycle littered the back yard.
Trailer park residents milled about Tuesday on their porches, some talking softly.
“I just got a big kick out of watching the kids play over there on her porch, and today it’s sad, very sad,” neighbor Joyce Harris said.
Other mother-child killings in Texas
Texas has seen a number of child killings by mothers in recent years.
Less than five years earlier, another Hudson Oaks family was torn apart when Dee Etta Perez, 39, shot her three children, ages 4, 9 and 10, before killing herself.
Andrea Yates drowned her five children in the family’s Houston bathtub in 2001. In 2003, Deanna Laney beat her two young sons to death with stones in East Texas, and Lisa Ann Diaz drowned her daughters in a Plano bathtub. Dena Schlosser fatally severed her 10-month-old daughter’s arms with a kitchen knife in 2004.
All four of those women were found innocent by reason of insanity. Yates initially was convicted of capital murder, but that verdict was overturned on appeal.