photo - Isabel Martinez gestures towards news cameras during her first court appearance Friday, July 7, 2017, in Lawrenceville , Ga. Martinez is charged with killing four of her children and their father. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Isabel Martinez gestures towards news cameras during her first court appearance Friday, July 7, 2017, in Lawrenceville , Ga. Martinez is charged with killing four of her children and their father. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) 

A suburban Atlanta mother, who federal authorities say is in the United States unlawfully, has been charged with murder after four of her young children and their father were found stabbed to death at home early Thursday morning.

Gwinnett County police and firefighters responded to a 911 call from inside the home in Loganville, Ga., where they found what one police official described as a “horrendous” scene: five bodies — one of the victims not yet 2 years old — along with another child who was badly injured.

That child, 9-year-old Diana Romero, is hospitalized in Atlanta in serious but stable condition.

“We continue to pray for Diana’s recovery, both physically and emotionally as she learns about what happened to her father and siblings,” Gwinnett County Police said in a statement.

Officials said 33-year-old Isabel Martinez, a Mexican national, has been charged with five counts of murder, five counts of “malice murder” (“where all the circumstances of the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart,” according to Georgia code) and six counts of aggravated assault.

Federal immigration authorities said Martinez, whom they identified as Maria Isabel Garduno-Martinez, illegally entered the United States, though it is not clear when or where she crossed the U.S. border. She is currently being held on an immigration detainer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This is her first encounter with ICE, authorities said.

Martinez was arrested Thursday and is being held without bond. According to police, she “has been cooperative with the investigators,” but authorities have not released a motive for the killings. Martinez is due in court Friday.

The Gwinnett County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the victims to The Washington Post as Martin Romero-Mora, age 33, and his children Isabela Garduno-Martinez, 10; Dacota Moncerrat Romero, 7; Dillan Martin Romero, 4; and Axel Oliber Romero-Garduno, 1.

“What prompts a person to take the life of such innocent children and her spouse is something we may never understand,” police said earlier in a statement. “This is a horrendous crime not only for the victims but for the extended family, neighborhood and community.”

Police Cpl. Michele Pihera told reporters Thursday that Martinez was “quickly taken into custody,” according to ABC affiliate WSB. “Right now, the indication is that the suspect used a knife. However, the medical examiner’s office will be able to conclusively decide that later upon autopsy.”

“What her motivations are for committing this horrendous crime, we still don’t know,” Pihera said of the suspect, according to CBS News.

A neighbor told the ABC station that Martinez had been depressed since her father died several months ago in Mexico and that she had been praying for him. “She seemed so normal, like a regular mother,” Letty Perez told the news station. “She was good, went to our church last weekend, she was there with us.”

Read this story at washingtonpost.com

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