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‘We lost three of our angels’

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Police said the 36-year-old mother did everything she could do to save her children.

She was returning to her Four Hills home Monday evening with her three kids – two boys aged 5 and 9, and a girl, 6 – when confronted by an intruder who had broken in. He was the woman’s ex-boyfriend, and he had a gun.

He opened fire on all four, then shot himself.

By the time officers arrived, the mother had pulled one of her children from the house.

George Daniel Wechsler, 45. (Source: APD)

George Daniel Wechsler, 45. (Source: APD)

“We know that the mother was attempting rescue on one of the children while she was critically injured herself,” Police Chief Gorden Eden said during a Tuesday morning news conference.

It was not enough.

One child died at the scene, and the other two died at the hospital or in the ambulance. The mother remains in critical condition at University of New Mexico Hospital.

Police say they are waiting to release the names of the woman and children until all family members have been notified.

The woman’s ex-boyfriend, George Daniel Wechsler, 45, was unconscious by the time police arrived at the house in the 1500 block of Stagecoach Lane SE. He was taken to the hospital, where he died.

Police said the woman had broken off their short relationship and repeatedly asked him not to contact her or her children.

“The offender did ask the female victim if he could come over to the house to bring the children Christmas presents, and she denied,” officer Fred Duran, a police spokesman, said at a news conference about 5 p.m. Tuesday. “She said she did not want him in the house, she did not want contact with him. And we want to reiterate very clearly that she has asked this male several times not to contact her and not to come to her house.”

However, Eden said, the only one who really knows what happened is the mother.

“The one and only witness to what happened is not in a position to provide us with that information,” he said.

The mother’s Facebook page shows photo after photo of her and her smiling children. One depicts the youngsters grinning behind three giant pumpkins. They are playing sports, and often hamming it up for the camera.

The mother and the children’s father divorced in 2015, according to court records. The father appeared to remain very active in his kids’ lives, and he and the children’s mother had a friendly relationship on social media.

Police had never been called to the house before, Eden said.

Mayor Richard Berry asked the community to come together and pray for the mother and the family.

“We lost three of our angels in a senseless and tragic act of violence last night,” he said.

The scene

Shortly after 6:30 p.m., officers were called to the wide curvy road nestled in the far east of Albuquerque’s prosperous Four Hills neighborhood. A chaotic and tragic scene awaited them.

fourhillsshootingAfter Wechsler reportedly opened fire, the woman had called 911 and said they had been shot.

When officers arrived, she had pulled one of her children out of the house and was trying to save the child.

“Our evidence also shows that the mom fought diligently to protect her children and to (try to) get them out of the home safely,” Eden said.

As detectives were interviewing neighbors, family members and the children’s father arrived on scene.

Then, they rushed to the hospital.

Sabrina Bingham said her son and nephew were watching TV at their home nearby and heard a volley of gunshots. She said they didn’t know what the noise was at the time, but later pieced together that it was the shooting.

On Tuesday, she found the time to bring flowers, teddy bears and a statue of an angel to a growing memorial in front of the family’s well-kept home. She said a prayer.

“As a mother, I can’t imagine losing your babies. It’s just sickening,” Bingham said. “I feel for the mom. What do you have to live for?”

The killer

Duran said that last month Wechsler told a friend and officers that he was suicidal. He was taken to the hospital for a mental health evaluation, but Duran said the medical results will not be released.

In 2003, he pleaded guilty and no contest to charges of misdemeanor stalking and petty misdemeanor assault against a family member for allegedly harassing a woman, according to court records. Duran said the victim in that case was not the same woman who was shot Monday. And in August 2015 he got in a physical fight with his brother and was issued a summons, according to Duran.

Otherwise, Wechsler had a scant criminal history, Duran said.

“He does not have any felony history that we were able to find as of yet,” he said. “Our detectives are still working on finding out more about the offender, more about who he is and trying to find out what happened that night.”

Although officials haven’t said which school the children attended, Albuquerque Public Schools spokeswoman Monica Armenta said resources are available to APS students.

“To my knowledge, we’ve never experienced the loss of three young students in one day,” she said.

The victims’ family asked that the public respect their privacy.