An Anchorage man who found his only child and two grandchildren dead in their apartment last week in what police are calling a domestic-violence-related murder-suicide remembered his daughter Thursday as a hard worker, a good mother and an independent child.
"She was my baby," Edwin Gonzalez said of his daughter, Desiree Leandra Gonzalez, while sitting on a recliner in his living room Thursday afternoon.
The father found the bodies of Desiree and her family on the afternoon of May 13. Even before the deaths, there had been signs of violence in the household, according to court records.
Initial evidence indicates that Desiree, 27; Zaiden E. Young, 4; and 17-month-old Zarielle A. Young were killed by Curtis Young III, Desiree's boyfriend of six years, the Anchorage Police Department reported Thursday. Young shot his girlfriend and their two children before turning the gun on himself, police said.
The murders are still being investigated, police said.
Edwin said he's been focused on the well-being of his wife since the tragedy struck and that she is having a hard time accepting what happened.
It wasn't until this week that Edwin shared with his wife what he saw in Desiree's 74th Avenue apartment, tucked away in a quiet neighborhood near the Old Seward Highway.
A 'catastrophic' scene
A mother's worries prompted Edwin to check on Desiree around noon. Edwin's wife asked him to drive over to the apartment after he called Desiree's workplace -- Reliant Transportation, where she worked as a bus driver -- and learned she hadn't shown up that morning.
Edwin remained calm. Initially, he wasn't thinking anything bad had happened; it was possible Desiree and Young overslept, he said.
When he arrived, the doors were locked, but the couple's vehicles were outside. He didn't want to break in, but said his wife insisted he find out where Desiree and her children were.
Edwin grabbed a ladder and leaned it against the home. He climbed it and peeked inside a second-story bedroom window. All four were dead in the room.
Shaking his head, Edwin declined to talk about his discovery in any more detail.
Anchorage police Sgt. Mike Couturier previously called the crime scene "catastrophic."
An independent daughter
Desiree's childhood was fairly typical, her father said.
She spent her free time with friends or with a cousin who was around the same age. The cousins remained close as they got older.
Around middle school, Desiree started taking piano lessons and Edwin eventually bought a piano. He said he'd frequently ask his daughter to play "his song," and she would plunk out a rendition of "Amazing Grace."
Desiree's classmates at Service High School described her as quiet -- a girl who kept to herself. Edwin's recollection differs -- she was a bit of a "wild child" at home, he said, quick to assert her autonomy.
She was in her early 20s when she gave birth to Zaiden. She took quickly to being a mother, Edwin said.
Edwin says his daughter and Young were good parents and they both pitched in.
Young had difficulty holding down a steady job, Edwin said, but he appeared to be a caring father.
"I liked the guy," Edwin said.
Young and in love
Young wasn't without his problems. He had anger issues, Edwin Gonzalez said, evidenced by domestic violence convictions against him in 2010 and 2011.
Zaiden was still a baby when the young couple got into an argument about Young's smoking, court records say. Young was charged for attacking Desiree during that argument.
About a year later, Young choked Desiree until she passed out -- twice. He was mad that she was going to a concert, the records say.
A judge ordered Young not to contact the mother of his child in both cases. But by all indications, the couple remained together.
Young also participated in required domestic violence courses. Edwin said he believed Young didn't have a good attitude about the classes and was unwilling to learn from his mistakes.
Edwin said he also encouraged Young to seek private counseling. He suggested this to his daughter too, he said.
Desiree would not respond to his pleas. Neither would Young.
He went as far as to tell Desiree that perhaps she should get away from Young.
"But they were young and in love," Edwin said. "I told her my opinion, but it was her choice to make … I had to let them live their lives."
Then Desiree became pregnant again, which Edwin said came as a surprise.
Funeral set for Saturday
Edwin said family and friends have been calling nonstop from across the country and offering condolences.
He said he has called detectives to find out more about the deaths. A lingering question for Edwin is how Young got the gun police said was used in the murders.
He said he also reached out to Young's family. The families have known each other for 18 years, he said. Young's family, he said, apologized for what happened.
For the most part, Edwin is busy planning for his daughter's and grandchildren's funeral at Eagle River Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday. The viewing begins at 1 p.m. and the service will start at 2. The service is open to the public.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing