Neighbor recalls her desperation — (The Boston Globe)

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The Boston Globe

By Javier C. Hernandez and John R. Ellement, Globe Staff

August 1, 2007

The Roslindale mother found wounded along with the bodies of her two children tried to commit suicide in the past and was taking medication for depression and migraines and was feeling like a “zombie,” a neighbor said yesterday.

The neighbor, Michelle Jenkins, said that since March she and Angela Vasquez had become close friends who shared daily confidences about their lives in the Maynard Street neighborhood.

About two weeks ago, Jenkins said, a visibly upset Vasquez told her she had once become so overwhelmed by her relationship problems and other struggles that she tried to end her life.

“She told me she tried to take her life before, that she had tried to hurt herself before,” Jenkins said in a telephone interview. She said Vasquez did not tell her when the attempt took place.

Jenkins quoted Vasquez as telling her: “I don’t know how I got here. I feel like I’m a zombie. I feel so tired.”

Yesterday, Vasquez, 31, remained in a Boston hospital under police guard as authorities investigated how her two children — Yasmine Burgos, 13, and Dennis Burgos Jr., 10 — died inside their apartment. Police discovered the bodies of the children and Vasquez bleeding from multiple stab wounds Sunday evening.

Also yesterday, teachers who worked with Yasmine Burgos at an after-school program at the Washington Irving School described the teenager as compassionate and devoted to her brother, whom she lovingly called “Dennis the Menace.”

“She was amazing,” said Jennifer Ruka, who got to know Yasmine while she participated in the Citizen Schools program. “She acted a lot older than her age.”

Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said police interviewed Vasquez yesterday. He said toxicology tests must be done before the cause of the children’s death is determined, a process that could take weeks.

Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said the office would not discuss its plans for the case.

The children’s father — Dennis Burgos Sr., who Jenkins said came to the duplex Sunday and frantically called out his children’s names — declined to comment yesterday.

Citizens Schools brings in volunteers for the after-school program such as Brendan P. Frank, a financial consultant who taught a cooking class to Yasmine. He said he also met her brother at an event earlier this year.

“Yasmine introduced him as ‘Dennis the Menace,’ and he gave her this sidelong smirk,” Frank recalled. “The two of them were off running, but the whole time she kept her eye on him and made sure he didn’t get into trouble.”

Jenkins said the Burgos children played with her son Friday, making videos. On Friday night, Jenkins said, Vasquez telephoned her and thanked her for her friendship.

Jenkins also said Vasquez had detailed her problems at work.

Last Wednesday, Vasquez showed Jenkins, who is a paralegal, a four-page letter from Children’s Hospital Boston laying out problems with her work performance.

In response, Vasquez told her she had e-mailed her co-workers and told them she quit. Last Thursday, a supervisor offered a chance to talk about making changes, but on Friday, Vasquez said her job was gone forever, Jenkins recalled.

“That got her mad again,” Jenkins said. “I know the job loss triggered her. She kept saying, ‘How am I going to take care of my kids and pay the bills?’ ”

The hospital has declined to discuss Vasquez’s employment history.

According to Jenkins and Vasquez’s cousin, Nilda Lopez, Vasquez was also upset that a long-term relationship ended painfully last year.

“One thing after another failed,” Jenkins said. “I don’t know how she will live without her kids. . . . Everything she did, was for her kids.”

Michael Levenson and Maria Cramer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.