Murder-suicide Came After Mom’s Long Depression — (Orlando Sentinal)

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Orlando Sentinal

October 31, 2003

By Pamela J. Johnson, Sentinel Staff Writer

Friends Said The Woman, Whose Note Thanked Her Husband, Had Struggled With Postpartum Illness.

Fishing with her parents, 8-year-old Hailey Moniz refused to pierce the worm with a hook and instead named it Mr. Wiggles.

After the family caught some bream, Hailey insisted that her father release the unused worms into a flowerbed.

“Did you let Mr. Wiggles go, too, Daddy?” a worried Hailey wanted to know.

On Thursday night, Paul and Barbara Huggins remembered a sweet-natured child who adored animals and worried about alligators eating the ducks in her family’s large backyard pond.

The couple, who have known Hailey’s parents, Eric and Jill Moniz, for 16 years, struggled to fathom the depth of depression Jill Moniz must have endured to take her daughter’s life and then her own.

Jill Moniz, 37, suffered from postpartum depression after Hailey’s birth, Paul Huggins said. Through the years, the depression became more severe. She was under a doctor’s care and taking antidepressants, investigators said.

Eric Moniz was unaware that his wife could no longer bear living, the Hugginses said. Jill Moniz had undergone many episodes of deep despair, but always managed to snap out of it, they said.

This time, she did not. On Wednesday, Eric Moniz returned to the family’s south Orange County home from his work as a telecommunications engineer at Walt Disney World. He found Jill and Hailey shot dead inside the family minivan in the garage.

Orange County sheriff’s detectives said Thursday that Jill Moniz shot her daughter and then herself. Inside the home, she left a seven-page suicide letter to her husband.

In it, Jill Moniz told her husband how much she appreciated him and everything he had done for her, sheriff’s Cmdr. Roland LaCroix said.

“She described what had become insurmountable pain in her mind,” LaCroix said. “We’re talking about someone dealing with a mental illness.”

LaCroix said that Moniz was being treated for depression and was taking various medications to combat the illness.

The couple had been married for 15 years..

Eric Moniz, 37, spent Thursday at his parent’s home in Orlando, surrounded by many relatives and friends. A relative who answered the phone at the home said they were awaiting the arrival of Jill Moniz’s family, which was traveling from Oklahoma.

Eric Moniz was overwhelmed with grief when Paul Huggins spoke with him Thursday.

“I told him `None of this is your fault; you did the best you could,’ ” said Huggins, 52, of Lake Wales. He is the founder and director of Lake Pierce Fishers of Men Ministries, of which Moniz is vice president.

“He just cried and cried,” Huggins said. “He was crying so hard I could barely understand him. He told me, `God is in control.’ ”

Paul and Barbara Huggins said Jill and Hailey were extremely close. Jill did not work, and her focus was on raising Hailey, who attended Hunter’s Creek Elementary School. The Hugginses described mother and daughter, who were both beauties, as “girlie-girls.”

“They were very feminine,” Paul Huggins said. “They used to giggle and play together. Jill was not an overbearing mother. They enjoyed each other.”

Huggins recalled a recent outing at Roadhouse Grill in Orlando. Jill was throwing peanuts at a delighted Hailey, who threw them back.

When she was up, Jill Moniz was bubbly and cheerful, Paul Huggins said. “She was on top of the world.”

She also had a creative streak.

“You should see the inside of their house,” he said. “It’s beautiful. She made all her own pillows and designed her own curtains.”

When she was down, she preferred not to see her friends. Eric Moniz was very protective of her and never considered separation, Huggins said.

“A man leaves his mother and father and cleaves to his wife,” Moniz would say, quoting the Bible.

When Jill Moniz was depressed, her mother would come from Oklahoma to stay with her.

“It would come and go,” Huggins said of her depression. “It wasn’t a constant disease.”

The day before the shootings, Huggins and Eric Moniz talked about a camping trip the two families planned to take together.

“We knew she was having problems, but no one knew how bad it was,” Huggins said. “She would even talk about her illness. She said she knew she had a problem and that she was working on it.”