Sheriff: Father turned away babysitter while family lay dead inside home
More details emerge in grisly murder-suicide that rocked Middletown
Bill Ryan/The Gazette
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When the babysitter stopped by the Wood home in Middletown on Friday to confirm that she was to watch the family's three children later that night, dad Christopher Alan Wood calmly turned her away.
She had no idea what horrific acts occurred in the home just hours before, Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said Tuesday.
She spoke with Wood at that time and told police that he exhibited no abnormal behavior despite the fact that police "believe that the family had been deceased at that time," Jenkins said.
Jenkins said police believe Wood killed himself with a shotgun "shortly afterward."
The revelation about the babysitter came Tuesday during a press conference at which the Frederick County Sheriff's Office released new information on the murder-suicide that has rocked Middletown to its core.
Jenkins outlined, among other details: the timeline of events, information about items left at the crime scene, and background on the family's financial stresses.
Wood, 34, is believed to have killed with a low-caliber pistol his wife, Francie Billotti-Wood, 33, and their three children, Chandler, 5, Gavin, 4, and Fiona, 2, while they slept in their beds sometime Thursday night or Friday morning, according to Jenkins.
Francie was last seen by a relative at about 8:45 p.m. Thursday, he said. The babysitter visited the Wood home Friday at about 9 a.m. to confirm arrangements to watch the children Friday night while the parents were to attend a church-related event.
The Sheriff's Office responded to the home at 9:09 a.m. Saturday after the children's grandfather reported having happened upon the crime scene after not hearing from the family for about a day.
They collected preliminary information from the home at that point, left, then returned with a search warrant at 2:35 p.m. Saturday. They re-entered the home, identified the deceased, and determined that Wood had killed his family and himself, Jenkins said.
At 5:45 p.m., the victims were removed for autopsies by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The preliminary autopsies have been completed, but full autopsy results may not be available for up to two months, and toxicology results will not be available for "a couple of weeks," Jenkins said.
Late Monday, the medical examiner's office released the bodies back to the family.
"We are confident we have reconstructed exactly what happened," Jenkins said. "We will continue to investigate [to fill in the timeline with any further details.] … There is not much more to this. This is what it is, a very sad incident."
All four murder victims were killed by gunshot wounds to the "head area," according to the Sheriff's Office. Francie was shot twice, Chandler twice, Gavin three times, and Fiona once.
A number of "traumatic cut injuries and lacerations" found on the bodies occurred post-mortem, according to the Medical Examiner.
Jenkins said that "to my knowledge, and we have researched this," the killings were the first homicides in Middletown's history. The town was founded in 1767.
Details were also released about the financial status of the family, which had moved from Jacksonville, Fla., to West Virginia shortly before moving into the house they rented at 13 Washington St., Middletown, in August 2008 after being transferred for work.
"The Woods were having severe financial difficulties from overextended mortgage and credit cards," Jenkins said Tuesday.
He said the family's debt, including credit cards and mortgage on a home they were unable to sell in Florida, was about $460,000. Wood was "gainfully with CSX Railroad and was in good standing," according to a Sheriff's Office statement, and, according to Jenkins, was making $97,000 a year.
The Sheriff's Office also released further details about items found at the scene of the crime. The shotgun and low-caliber handguns were the only two firearms found in the home, Jenkins said, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is working to trace them because they were not purchased through a licensed Maryland dealer.
Officials also found two cutting instruments at the scene, a kitchen knife and a pruning saw of the sort typically used to prune hedges and trees. "One or both were used" to inflict the post-mortem cut injuries and lacerations, Jenkins said.
Four types of medication prescribed to Wood were also found, though Jenkins said until the final toxicology report is completed it can not be determined whether any of them had been ingested prior to, or during, the events of last week.
The medications recovered include paroxetine, a drug used to treat depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic disorders; buspirone and alprazolam, both anxiety drugs; and Cymbalta, an antidepressant also used to treat anxiety.
Paroxetine is commonly known under the trade name Paxil; buspirone as Buspar; and alprazolam as Xanax.
They also found in the home six notes written by Wood. There were four individual ones written to his immediate family members: one per child and one for his wife. There was a fifth written to his mother, father and sister, which indicated that "what had happened, in his mind, was regrettable," according to Jenkins, and a sixth that "can be best characterized as a suicide note describing his day-to-day stresses" and other issues.
Officials believe the notes were written after the murders.
The notes served as a way for officials to try to determine Wood's intent and state of mind, but Jenkins said "no one expected this. No one saw this coming in either family," and that even he "can't make any sense of this. … We don't know what goes on in any person's household."
There was no arrest record for either Wood or his wife in any state, according to Jenkins, nor a history of domestic violence. Law enforcement is also believed to have never been called to the home for any reason before Saturday.
Jenkins said he "can't confirm" whether or not Billotti-Wood was pregnant until the full autopsy results are released.
A written statement was also distributed at the press conference called the "Billotti-Wood Family Statement," which praised God for the "gift of this family" and discussed the loving nature of Chris and Francie and their devotion to their children.
"In these most difficult times, the Billotti and Wood families stand united, loving on and comforting one another as Christ Jesus directs," the statement said.
E-mail Connor Adams Sheets at email@example.com.