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Distraught after a failed relationship, Carla Lopez-Mejia sedated and strangled her two young children and then hanged herself in the family’s Lake in the Hills home, writing in a note that she had “lived in pain 27 years and I don’t want the same for them.”
That’s the tragic picture that emerges from the police investigation into a murder-suicide that shook this McHenry County village. Released to the Tribune through a public records request, the case file portrays a woman with long-standing mental health issues that reached a sudden, violent boil.
On the afternoon of Jan. 10, a neighbor called police to the two-story townhouse after a friend of 11-year-old Ezequiel Garcia came to the house and, through a window, saw a body hanging from the stairway banister.
It was Lopez-Mejia, 27, a mother of two who worked in customer service at an Elgin bank. Police discovered Ezequiel and his sister, Ariana Garcia, 8, lying on a bed in the master bedroom, stuffed animals tucked under their arms, the family dog standing guard over their bodies.
In a handwritten note left in the kitchen, Lopez-Mejia wrote of her despair, desperation and loneliness, and of her determination not to leave her children behind to suffer without her.
“When people judge just know I loved my kids more than anything in (the) world,” she wrote. “All I wanted was a family and security and love, none of which ever were meant for us.”
The case file includes the statements of unnamed associates who said Lopez-Mejia had long suffered depression and anxiety, sometimes took antipsychotic medication and occasionally expressed suicidal thoughts. It is unclear from the heavily redacted documents whether she was taking psychiatric medication at the time of the murder-suicide.
Much of the file involves a tumultuous romantic relationship that Lopez-Mejia, who separated from her husband in mid-2016, had pursued with a man she met through an online dating site.
The man said in an interview with police that the relationship had cooled before Thanksgiving. But in early January, he said, Lopez-Mejia sent him a blizzard of emotional text messages and an impassioned handwritten letter, and on Jan. 9, showed up unannounced at his house asking to borrow his gun (police did not recover any firearms at Lopez-Mejia’s house, the records indicate).
“(The man) said this could have been prevented,” according to the interview notes. “She did not feel like she had enough people that cared about her, and she was obviously seeking help.”
At the same time, Lopez-Mejia presented a picture of normalcy to others. Two days before the murder-suicide, she posted an online message telling her cousins “it would be nice to interact more this year.” One day before, she exchanged prosaic texts with her husband about the kids’ dental appointments.
Less than three hours after sending those messages, police records show, she was browsing a website purporting to list the quickest and most painless ways to commit suicide.
Michelle Oberman, who has written two books on mothers who kill their children, said Lopez-Mejia appeared to share commonalities with other women she has studied, particularly with her mental illness and her determination that the afterlife would be a kinder home for her kids.
“If you want to understand their world view, you have to step inside of it and (grasp) the sense of there being absolutely no road ahead, that every road is mined,” she said. “Once they come to that conclusion, they don’t know how to take themselves out of the picture without taking the children with them.”
Officer Amanda Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Lake in the Hills police, asked the public to give Lopez-Mejia’s family time to heal. She also thanked those who donated to the family’s funerals and assembled for a candlelight vigil.
“As a community, we appreciate all of those who came together to offer support, help and services,” she said. “It is the kindness and generosity of the Lake in the Hills community that makes our village and its citizens stand out in a time of need.”