LOUISVILLE — A mother who police said stabbed her daughters before shooting herself had raised the children alone after her husband hanged himself three years ago.
Hope Orwick, 35, attacked daughters Emily, 9, and Lindsey, 8, then shot herself in the head, said Jefferson County Deputy Coroner Bob Jones. A relative found their bodies Monday evening. Police had not determined a motive for the killings Tuesday.
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The killings confused many in the neighborhood who saw Orwick with the girls every day. A counselor at the girls' school, Wendy Anderson, described Hope Orwick as a volunteer and "just the mom you want supporting the school," and Emily as "the type of student you want 24 of."
She said the school staff saw Hope Orwick on Thursday, the last day of classes before the family was found dead. "There were no signs. There was nothing that even looked odd," Anderson said.
Lindsey had a rare chromosome disorder known as cri du chat syndrome, so named because it is characterized at birth by a high-pitched cry that sounds like a cat's. The syndrome can cause developmental disabilities and trouble eating and speaking.
Hope and her late husband, Christopher, had worked with the Five P Minus Society in California, a support group for parents of children with Lindsey's condition. Laura Castillo, executive director, called news of the deaths "strange."
"This was such a beautiful woman, such a beautiful family," Castillo said. "I don't even know what to think about what happened."
Orwick told The Courier-Journal in a 2004 interview that the diagnosis of cri du chat was "overwhelming," but described a regimen of therapy, doctors and specialists that helped her daughter show progress by age 3. "Now, one smile from Lindsey can turn my darkest day bright," she told the newspaper.
According to his death certificate, Chris Orwick hanged himself at a workplace on April 27, 2005. A neighbor, Anthoney Claypool, 17, who occasionally talked with Hope Orwick, said he knew she was upset after her husband died. "I think it made things harder for her," he said.
Shawn Kennell, whose daughter was Emily's classmate, said Hope Orwick suffered from painful stomach ulcers that had gotten better but worsened again in recent days.
Hope Orwick's uncle, David Stieren, said family members did not want to talk. "We're just so upset we can't talk about it right now," Stieren said. "We're all upset."
The girls' school, Auburndale Elementary, was closed Monday and Tuesday for parent-teacher meetings. Crisis counselors will be available when students return Wednesday. "It's hard because you don't have answers," Anderson, the school counselor, said.