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4 adults, 3 kids found in Minnesota home died of carbon monoxide poisoning

Most of the victims were in their beds Saturday night in Moorhead, near Fargo, N.D., after family members could not reach them.

Seven family members, including three children, who were found dead in a Minnesota home Saturday night died of carbon monoxide poisoning, police said Wednesday.

The victims — two parents, their three children, the father’s brother and the parents’ niece — were discovered in the house in Moorhead shortly before 8 p.m. Most were in their beds, Police Chief Shannon Monroe said.

Police received blood test results Wednesday that “listed a lethal level of carbon monoxide toxicity,” the police department said in a statement.

“We have not found anything indicating any kind of criminal activity,” Monroe said at a news conference.

Two friends of seven people whose bodies were found home comfort each other next to seven wreaths that were left outside the residence on Dec. 20, 2021, in Moorhead, Minn.
Two friends of seven people whose bodies were found in a home comfort each other next to seven wreaths that were left outside the residence Monday in Moorhead, Minn.Dave Kolpack / AP

There are two known sources of carbon monoxide in the home, which was rented — a furnace in a room in the garage and a van in the garage that was not running and had half a tank of gas and a dead battery, Monroe said.

More testing is being done to look for the presence of hydrogen cyanide, which would indicate that it was vehicle exhaust, Monroe said.

Investigators are focusing on the furnace for now, because in other cases in which vehicles are left running to cause lethal amounts of carbon monoxide, they usually are found with no gas left, Monroe said.

The dead have been identified as Belin Hernandez, 37; his wife, Marleny Pinto, 34; their children, Breylin, 16, Mike, 7, and Marbely, 5; Hernandez’s brother Eldor Hernandez Castillo, 32; and the parents’ niece Mariela Guzman Pinto, 19.

There was a carbon monoxide detector in the home, but it was inside a laundry room cabinet with the battery removed, Monroe said. He said other detectors were for smoke only.

Officials stressed that a working carbon monoxide detector should be within 10 feet of sleeping areas and that if a combination device that also detects smoke is changed, it should be replaced with one that detects both.

They should be tested every month and replaced every five to seven years, Acting Fire Chief Jeff Wallin said.

Mayor Michelle Carlson said, “The entire community’s condolences are with this family.”