Estranged husband shot wife, 4-year-old daughter, mother-in-law before killing himself, sheriff says

Friday, May 20, 2022
Dad in murder-suicide urged daughter to go under water in tub, records show
In the wake of four family members found shot to death, court filings paint a picture of a divorce involving alleged spousal and child abuse.

SPRING, Texas (KTRK) -- A man estranged from his wife and 4-year-old daughter appeared to have shot them and his mother-in-law before turning the weapon on himself, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

The preliminary finding was disclosed hours after four bodies were found inside a northwest Harris County apartment unit Thursday morning.

It was a Pakistani family at the center of the tragedy, Gonzalez said.

The woman worked at an Islamic school nearby and her coworkers became concerned when the "reliable" employee did not show up for work. When they arrived at the Commons at Vintage Park Apartments, where she lived, in the 9700 block of Cypresswood Drive, Gonzalez said deputies were already outside.

"At that moment, I just started crying," Angelique Lee, a neighbor who had interacted with the family before, said. "I just started crying. It's crazy how you see someone one moment and then you would never fathom something like this would happen."

Other residents at the apartments were quick to start a memorial for the family. Not only did this hit close to home, literally, for the residents, but some had also interacted recently with the mother, her mother, and the child.

"The mother-in-law was always speaking to people passing by, waving," Lee said. "When I did see the wife, she would speak. The little girl played with the lady in building number four's little girl. They were out there playing. The quality of life, seeming to me, that they wanted to live."

The husband and wife were going through a divorce in recent months, and there were reports of the man being abusive to his daughter, the sheriff added.

An investigation is active and ongoing.

WATCH: Sheriff on 'very tragic' murder-suicide that left 4 family members dead

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez spoke just hours after his deputies received an initial call of four killed in an apartment unit.

First reports of the family killings

Gonzalez gave the first information on the incident through a tweet posted at 9:23 a.m.

"(Deputies) discovered at least 4 individuals shot, possibly deceased," Gonzalez wrote.

The sheriff followed that up with additional preliminary details.

"Update 1 to Cypresswood Scene: 4 persons confirmed deceased inside an apt unit. Initial observations, appears to be a murder-suicide. No active threat within the complex," Gonzalez added.

ABC13 streaming coverage: 4 dead in apparent Cypresswood murder-suicide

Eyewitness News brought you updates live in the wake of an apparent murder-suicide in northwest Harris County. (Recorded from ABC13 Houston's 24/7 Streaming Channel)

At least one neighbor told Eyewitness News that families with small children mainly reside at the apartment complex, and that it's not typical for these incidents to happen there.

"I was very shocked," said Mia Thomas, a neighbor who told ABC13 she heard gunshots at about 7:30 a.m. "I had kind of a feeling and it makes sense how I heard four shots, then a pause, and then two. It does make sense, but it's just crazy."

Inside the bitter divorce and reported abuse

Eyewitness News is not naming the couple until authorities can get into contact with family members, but sources tell us most of the family lives in Pakistan.

Court records show they were divorced, but the ex-husband filed an appeal that was being processed.

Records also show just how dysfunctional and abusive things got between the couple. In April, a police report was filed because the little girl told her mother that her father told her to get into a bathtub when she wasn't taking a bath and keep her head underwater.

The report does not say whether she actually did or not

He was never charged though. ABC13 reached out to Texas child protective services officials who confirmed the family had history with the agency, but could not elaborate due to confidentiality laws.

Court documents reveal the husband was verbally abusive. He allegedly stopped his wife from using the family car, tracked it, and threatened to call the police if she didn't follow the rules, even taking her cellphone from her.

ABC13 got in touch with the woman's divorce attorney, Dianne Curvey, who stopped representing her last year. Curvey wasn't shocked hearing about the incident, adding the woman always worried about what her ex may do to their daughter.

"She did not want to let her baby go with him because the child was only 4 years old and couldn't protect herself from him," Curvey said. "He would keep her up through the night, come home, sit in the car with the car running in the garage. She couldn't sleep...He wouldn't give her money to buy food, to do things for the child."

Court records also show the ex-husband, who had a prior DWI conviction in Brazoria County, was out on bond for the same charge.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a counselor from anywhere in the United States.

RELATED: Seeking help? Domestic violence resources can be found here