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Domestic violence to blame for 4 deaths in South Anchorage, police say

The four people found dead in a South Anchorage apartment Wednesday were a young couple and two children, who all suffered gunshot wounds in what the Anchorage Police Department is calling a "domestic violence-related incident."

Anchorage police identified the deceased as Curtis Young III, 24; Desiree Leandra Gonzalez, 27; Zaiden E. Young, 4; and 17-month-old Zarielle A. Young.

In a news conference Thursday, Anchorage police Sgt. Mike Couturier declined to comment on who pulled the trigger or describe the murder weapon, though he said a firearm was found in the home.

"I'd love to talk about that right now but we're less than a day into the investigation," Couturier said. "It's important not to draw conclusions until all the evidence has been looked at."

He called the crime scene "catastrophic" and said the investigation into the deaths was a top priority.

Investigators were at the apartment until almost 4 a.m., he said, collecting "numerous devices" including electronics in hopes of determining a motive for the slayings. The sergeant declined to say whether police found a suicide note.

Neighbors told police Wednesday that they had heard gunshots, or a "disturbance," earlier in the morning, Couturier said. Reports of when the neighbors heard the noise ranged from 1:47 a.m. to 4 a.m., he said. Neighbors told Alaska Dispatch News that the couple had lived in the apartment for about a year.

Gonzalez's father called police at 12:20 p.m. on Wednesday saying he had just found the family dead at the 500 block of East 74th Avenue, police said. The father had gone to the apartment after Young had failed to drop the children off in the morning as he usually did, worrying the father. Gonzalez didn't answer her phone, so the father went to the couple's apartment and found the doors locked, police said.

Gonzalez's father climbed through a window and found his daughter, her boyfriend and their two children dead. All four had gunshot wounds, APD spokesperson Anita Shell wrote.

"At this point in the investigation, detectives believe this was an isolated domestic violence-related incident and are not looking for a suspect," Shell wrote.

Police do not know yet how long the family had been dead. The State Medical Examiner Office is conducting an autopsy on the deceased.

On Wednesday, police gathered in South Anchorage shortly after getting the call from Gonzalez's father but did not enter the family's apartment until the late afternoon.

When asked why the detectives didn't go inside the home sooner despite knowing there were four bodies, Couturier said the police department was following required procedures.

"(Police) need a search warrant to go in," he said. "It always takes some time to get a warrant."

Contacted Thursday afternoon, Edwin Gonzalez, who identified himself as Desiree Gonzalez's father, declined comment, saying only that "Right now, I just want to take care of family first."

Jose E. Ortiz, Gonzalez's cousin, said that she used to fly to see family members on the East Coast nearly every summer.

"I basically grew up with her," Ortiz said.

The last time Ortiz saw Gonzalez was in the summer of 2014, when she had come to a family member's 90th birthday party in New Jersey, and brought her youngest child, Ortiz said.

He described Gonzalez as "a very smart girl," who mostly kept to herself.

Her cousin said Gonzalez was a bus driver in Anchorage. Anchorage School District spokesperson Heidi Embley said Gonzalez worked for Reliant Transportation, a contractor with ASD.

Gonzalez and Curtis Young had been dating for at least six years, Ortiz said.

Court records indicate police had previously responded to multiple domestic disturbances involving Curtis Young in 2010 and 2011. The 2011 incident saw Young jailed for twice putting Gonzalez in a chokehold until she passed out, according to court documents.

Young was charged with assault in December 2010 and later pleaded guilty to holding down a woman -- identified as "D.G." in court records -- by putting his knee on her chest, slapping her and striking her in the head with a soda can. D.G. told investigators that she and Young had a child together, and had gotten into an argument about his smoking, according to court records.

Curtis was imprisoned for nine days and ordered to complete a domestic violence program, according to a judgment affidavit dated Jan. 18, 2011.

Nearly a year had gone by when Gonzalez alleged Young, "her baby's father," broke things in their apartment -- televisions, a mirror and other items -- then placed her in a chokehold which caused her to black out, the records say.

Gonzalez told police that when she came to and asked what happened, Curtis Young said he was leaving her and choked her again until she lost consciousness, according to the records.

"(Gonzalez) stated that (Curtis Young) was upset at her because she was going to a concert," the records say.

Young was sentenced to 45 days in jail in that case after pleading guilty to fourth-degree charges of criminal mischief and assault. A judge also ordered him to have no contact with Gonzalez without her consent.

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