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Search expands for woman missing from family death scene

March 31, 2007|By DAVID DISHNEAU

FREDERICK, Md. - A missing Salvadoran woman whose four children and husband were found dead in their home this week wanted a typical American life, but lacked the tools to get it, said a mentor who advised her on financial and family issues.

Deysi M. Benitez was pregnant at 15, had only a third-grade education and could barely read Spanish, let alone English, Rosalinda Delgado said Friday. She said Benitez, 25, and husband Pedro Rodriguez could ill afford the three-bedroom townhouse in which the bodies were found Monday, with the children dead of unknown causes and covered up in their beds.

Police say Rodriguez hanged himself, sometime in the 10 days after he learned March 15 that he would lose his factory job in Frederick.

Delgado said she had urged Benitez, a restaurant worker, to look for a home more affordable than the nearly $196,000 townhouse the couple bought in August 2005. But the hardworking immigrants got caught up in the real-estate fervor.

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"Everybody was buying houses, buying houses," said Delgado, publisher of Buena Gente, a Spanish-language magazine aimed at Latino newcomers to the city of 58,000. "They wanted everything everybody had, but they didn't have the skills to get it."

Benitez's disappearance has puzzled police, whose search expanded Friday to include nearly two weeks worth of passenger lists of U.S. airlines. Her inactive cell phone is missing, and police have found no passports, credit cards or driver's licenses in the family's home or cars, Lt. Thomas Chase said. Both Benitez and Rodriguez were licensed Maryland drivers, he said.

Chase declined to comment on whether there have been any recent bank withdrawals or credit-card purchases on the family's accounts.

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