‘My heart is broken’: Mom of 3 kids killed in Gwinnett asks for burial help

Few answers in suspected murder-suicide at Lucky Shoals Park

Like any mother would, Karina Rodríguez stayed with her youngest child while he was being treated at the hospital. She let the boy’s father take her three older children to get something to eat.

It would be the last time she would see the man and her “three little angels” alive.

“I am devastated with my heart in pieces,” Rodríguez said on a fundraising page. “My world was my children and I was mother and father to them so that they never lacked anything, and they took the lives of my little angels from me.”

According to Gwinnett County police investigators, it was 56-year-old Jose Plasencia — the father of Rodríguez’s youngest child — who killed her three other children before turning the gun on himself. The bodies of all four were found early Wednesday in Lucky Shoals Park, less than three miles from their home in Norcross.

But why? While Rodríguez faces the heavy burden of burying her children, questions about a possible motive remained unanswered and could remain so with the gunman dead.

An officer doing a routine patrol of the park made the heartbreaking discovery after spotting a 2005 Honda Accord parked on a pedestrian walkway. The car was still running and the rear lights were on. But no one responded when the officer activated his car’s blue lights or called out to the driver, according to a Gwinnett police report obtained Thursday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Through the sedan’s windows, the officer learned why no one had responded. Two children, a boy and a girl, were in the backseat, on top of each other and face down. A young girl, covered in blood, was slumped over in the front passenger seat. And a man, later identified as Plasencia, was also slumped over, with the window next to him shattered. All four were shot and had died.

The officer opened the rear passenger door and saw a large pool of blood on the floor beneath the children, one of whom had an apparent gunshot wound to the top of their head.

“As I further assessed the unresponsive subjects to see if they were alive, I saw they were all obviously deceased,” the officer wrote in the report.

The children were identified late Wednesday as Arianny Rodríguez, 13, Chadal Rodríguez, 11, and Carlos Rodríguez, 9.

The three were siblings but not related to Plasencia, police said. Their mother was no longer in a relationship with Plasencia, though he had lived with the family.

The investigation into the crimes continued for several hours Wednesday. The Honda, which had a Georgia license plate, was impounded and taken to a wrecker lot. The four bodies were taken to the medical examiner’s office.

Three siblings, Arianny Rodriguez, 13, Chadal Rodriguez, 11, and Carlos Rodriguez, 9, were killed this week in a suspected murder-suicide.

Credit: Family photo

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Credit: Family photo

But the deaths were hard to understand, even for investigators.

“Nothing can undo this senseless crime, but we express our condolences to the victims’ parents, family, friends and classmates as they grieve over the loss of these three children,” Sgt. Michele Pihera, a Gwinnett police spokeswoman, said in an email to the AJC. “We hope the family and community can begin the process of healing in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.”

The children were students in DeKalb County schools. On Thursday, families were informed that two Kingsley Elementary students and one Peachtree Middle student had died. Both schools are located in Dunwoody.

In letters to the school communities, the principals did not share details about the deaths or name the students. Both noted that additional counselors would be on hand in the coming days.

”Without question, this news is difficult to hear, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to the students’ family, friends and classmates,” wrote Kingsley Elementary Principal Tyra Harris-Thompson.

Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services said it had not previously investigated the family.

It was not known why Rodriguez’s youngest child was in the hospital, but it was not related to the shootings, police said. On a GoFundMe page, Rodríguez said she will need help returning her children to her native Dominican Republic for burial.

“I am asking for help with expenses (for) funerals of my little angels and to be able to send them to my country, which is the Dominican Republic, and give them Christian burial, which I do not have enough resources for,” Rodríguez said. “Any help would be a great support for me and my family.”

— Staff writer Cassidy Alexander contributed to this article.