Family’s Deaths in West Side Apartment Were Murder-Suicide, the Police Say

Family’s Deaths in West Side Apartment Were Murder-Suicide, the Police Say

The men stood in the hallway in front of a locked, fourth-floor apartment door on the Upper West Side on Monday afternoon.

Mario Lopez was the building’s former superintendent and his son Edison, the current super, had not dropped off his sons, ages 1 and 3, with their grandmother for babysitting that morning.

Now, no one was answering the door and Mr. Lopez had brought his daughter-in-law’s brother — himself a super in a building across the street — to check on the family.

With tools Mr. Lopez had used countless times to repair and improve the co-op on West 86th Street, they drilled out the lock cylinder.

“We could see through the hole,” Mr. Lopez said in an interview. On the other side, his daughter-in-law, Alexandra Witek, was splayed on the floor. “We saw her laying down with the blood already all over her.”

They dialed 911. The police, arriving at 328 W. 86th Street, walked into a grim scene: Ms. Witek, 40, was lying in the hallway with her children, Lucien Lopez, 3, and Calvin Lopez, 1, police officials said. Officers saw two kitchen knives on the floor close by. All three had been fatally stabbed, and their throats were slit.

In another room, the officers discovered Edison Lopez, 41, on a bed next to a knife, with a single, fatal slash to his neck.

Police officials said that Edison Lopez had killed all three, and then himself.

The police, relatives and tenants of the building on West 86th Street said Mr. Lopez did not signal that anything might be amiss. The police never received domestic violence reports from the apartment. Mr. Lopez did not leave a note, nor did he post anything on social media to indicate that he might have been a danger to his family.

He had gone with his wife and children and another family to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan on Monday morning, hours before they were found dead, according to the police.

Mr. Lopez had been preparing to move to Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester County, less than 20 miles north of Manhattan for a new job, said Joseph E. Kenny, the assistant chief of detectives at the New York Police Department. Chief Kenny said the police are investigating whether the stress of the move contributed to the killings.

On Tuesday, Mario Lopez still could not process what he had seen. He said he did not believe that his son was responsible.

“How would you feel if you found your two grandchildren and your son and your daughter-in-law laying there?” he said.

The couple had known each other their whole lives. They grew up on this block where the children of supers play in Riverside Park and in between the stately prewar buildings. The tight circle of people who maintain the homes of others exists within a larger ecosystem of doctors, lawyers and Broadway artists. It is also where, as in the case of the super and Mr. Lopez, sons follow the career paths established by their fathers.

On Monday evening, a crime scene van was parked in front of the co-op near the dark green awning that leads to the lobby. Some of the officers there wore hazmat suits as they wheeled stretchers past the residents, reporters and news photographers gathered outside. One woman asked a doorman who had died. He told her. She cried, “Ed, no, no. That’s my friend.”

Other doormen and supers had also arrived, and talked among themselves. Most said they had known the family for years, and were unsure how to process the scene.

One, Alfonso Barrera, a retired super, said he had long known the Lopez family, and had watched Mr. Lopez and his wife grow up. Carlos Cabrera, a doorman next door, said Mr. Lopez would often take his toddler to Riverside Park, the little boy standing in the front of his electric scooter. “He had a beautiful family and he was a very nice person,” he said. “I couldn’t ever have said what’s wrong.”

Ms. Witek, who was known as Ola, was a teacher at the Rodeph Sholom School nearby. “Our community was devastated to learn of the untimely passing of our longtime, beloved teacher,” Danny Karpf, the head of school, said in an email.

Mario Lopez said his son and Ms. Witek had gone to the public Beacon High School together in the Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen. They married years later, when they were in their 30s. “I never saw them fighting,” Mario Lopez said. “They actually were going to start a new life, a new job, in a better apartment building.”

Former and current tenants said Mr. Lopez was composed, considerate and attentive, often repairing their broken door hinges and dishwashers. He helped to maintain the well-kept building, and was often seen watering the plants during the summer months.

Mario Lopez and several tenants said Mr. Lopez was excited to take another job outside the city — where his family would have a three-bedroom apartment, rather than the one-bedroom he grew up in where he currently lived — and was preparing to move next month.

“It was the right move,” said Lynne Allen, 72, who has lived in the building since 1981, and had known Mr. Lopez since he was 10 years old.

“He was at the right age to move to a bigger building with more responsibility and more space,” she added. “They live in a one-bedroom apartment. That’s tight, you know?”

By Tuesday morning, the caution tape that had been strung outside the building was gone. A bouquet of sunflowers had been left on the stoop alongside two toy cars, one red and one yellow.

Zachary Small and Olivia Bensimon contributed reporting.

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