A gruesome discovery inside an Asheville, N.C., home on Saturday led to double murder charges against a wife and mother.
Police said Naiyana Patel, 33, bludgeoned her two young daughters with a hatchet and then tried to kill herself.
Investigators say Patel used the ax to repeatedly strike herself in the head.
"It's just a terrible, terrible incident that occurred," Lt. Wallace Welch, interim chief of police, told WYFF.
Welch said the father of Jiya Patel, 7, and Piya Patel, 4, found his daughters dead and wife injured, after returning home from work.
Lalji Patel, who friends and relatives call Lalu, owns a convenience store a short distance from their home.
Employee Billy Mills said Patel would usually ride a moped to work.
"Lalu would always have me pick up Naiyana and the girls and bring them to the store," said Mills.
On Saturday morning, no one answered the door, Mills said. "I called Lalu to let him know," Mills told WYFF.
Patel unlocked the house and found his daughters and wife inside, Mills said.
'A loving family'
"It's heartbreaking," Mills told WYFF. "They were a loving family."
By Sunday morning, a makeshift memorial started to take shape by the family's mailbox.
Friends of the family stopped by the home, after learning what happened.
"I couldn't sleep last night," Sameer Lakhani, told WYFF. "That's all I could think of."
Relatives of the Patels said Lalu was staying with them as they made arrangements to plan a funeral and clean up the family's home.
"We don't want Lalu to have to think about any of this," Shelly Patel told WYFF. "We are trying to think for him."
Patel said Naiyana was being treated for depression after a pregnancy she did not carry to full-term, and, at some point she switched medication because the initial prescription did not seem to help.
Welch said investigators took medication from the home that relatives say was prescribed to Naiyana after the pregnancy ended.
"Certainly, we've had speculation that there is either an elective abortion or a miscarriage -- we're not quite sure which." Welch said, "There are larger definitions of what you consider right and wrong in her mental state and her capacity at the time of the incident."
Welch said they are giving the girls' distraught father some space for now. Police investigators said the crime has been difficult even for the officers involved.
"Over years, we get pretty good at just compartmentalizing these kinds of things — shoving them away for another day. This one wasn't going in that box," Welch said.
Relatives are trying to plan a funeral for Thursday.
No condition was available for Naiyana Patel. She remains hospitalized at Mission Hospital after undergoing surgery.