The deaths of a West Roxbury woman and her two young children, all found near a tall parking garage on Christmas Day, were “very likely a double-murder suicide,” Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Thursday, giving heartbreaking details about a nearly unfathomable tragedy.
The woman was identified as Erin Pascal, 40; her children were Allison, 4, and Andrew, 15 months, Rollins said at a news conference on Thursday. They lived in West Roxbury with the children’s father, Rollins said.
“This entire family in a matter of minutes, aside from the father who survives them, is gone,” Rollins said, keeping her voice steady as she described details of the investigation. “No matter what situation people find themselves in — the level of potential despair that one must feel in order to engage in this behavior — there’s help available, and, just, we sincerely hope people use it.”
The children apparently plunged from the top floor of the Renaissance Park garage and were followed by their mother, Rollins said in an interview with WBUR radio. She did not explain how investigators concluded that Pascal probably caused the children’s deaths.
Pascal’s car had been parked on the roof deck of the garage, which is owned by Northeastern University. Emergency responders who rushed to the garage, near Ruggles Station on the MBTA’s Orange Line, found their bodies on the ground outside, their belongings scattered around them.
They were rushed to a Boston hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
The deaths on Wednesday marked the third, fourth, and fifth deaths at that garage in the past seven months, Rollins said. It’s a grim tally that includes the suicide of Alexander Urtula, the Boston College student whose case drew widespread attention when prosecutors charged his girlfriend with involuntary manslaughter after allegedly waging a campaign of relentless emotional abuse. Another suicide occurred at the garage Dec. 9, though few details about it have been made public.
“I don’t know what else needs to happen in order for this to be handled, or taken more seriously,” Rollins said regarding safety measures at the garage.
A Northeastern spokeswoman said Wednesday that the university has indefinitely blocked pedestrian and vehicular access to the top two floors of the garage.
Investigators were still searching Pascal’s car, which police had towed away on Wednesday; they were also looking through her cellphone and checking reports that a 911 call was placed shortly before Wednesday’s episode.
On Thursday afternoon, Pascal’s home, a three-bedroom brownstone in West Roxbury overlooking the busy VFW Parkway, was surrounded by unmarked police cars. A plastic toy bicycle, blue, red, and yellow, was in the driveway.
Rollins said the father of the children, whom she did not identify, was notified of their deaths on Wednesday.
Pascal had worked for many years in corporate communications, including most recently at Sanofi Genzyme. She was described by a former teacher as energetic — and as someone with a bright future.
At Brown University nearly 20 years ago, Pascal was an aspiring journalist.
She was in an advanced feature writing class when she published her first article in The Providence Journal in April 2001, an evocative story about a small diner in a working-class neighborhood in Providence. A few months later, the Journal hired her for a two-year internship as a reporter in the South County bureau.
“She was a really serious journalist and was super committed to getting good stories,” said Tracy Breton, a retired investigative reporter at the Journal who taught Pascal in the writing class.
Pascal’s byline was Erin Emlock then, and she covered news in North Kingstown, R.I. She was also part of the Journal’s team that covered the fire at the Station nightclub in February 2003, which killed 100 people, and wrote stories about the victims.
Jennifer D. Jordan, who worked with Pascal when she interned at the South County bureau, remembered her as “a very conscientious person.”
“She’d never say an unkind word,” Jordan said.
Jordan recalled taking walks together down Blackstone Boulevard in Providence to unwind after long days at work and having to quicken her steps to keep up with Pascal’s strides.
“She was a very good reporter, but I think in those two years she realized that reporting can be very draining, and it can kind of eclipse other things in life,” Jordan said.
After her internship, Pascal left journalism to work in public relations but remained in touch with her former journalism professor for years. Breton said that Pascal sent her Christmas cards. The last announced she was getting married.
Breton was stunned at the news of Pascal’s death.
“She was full of life and very energetic,” Breton said. “I thought she had a bright future ahead of her.”
Pascal worked from 2004 to 2012 in the corporate communications office of Genzyme, the Cambridge biotechnology company that develops treatments for rare diseases.
She briefly left to join Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a drug maker that specializes in treatments for cystic fibrosis, but returned to Genzyme about 18 months later, according to her LinkedIn profile. Genzyme had become a subsidiary of the French drug giant Sanofi.
In recent years, some of her work focused on spreading the word about treatments that Sanofi Genzyme had developed for multiple sclerosis. In October, she became director of the corporate philanthropy team, according to her LinkedIn page.
“At this time, all we’re going to say on the record is that our hearts are with the family,” Ashleigh Koss, the head of media relations for Sanofi in North America, which is based in Bridgewater, N.J., said as her voice cracked with emotion.
Rollins urged anyone who feels under stress, for whatever reason, to reach out and get help. “There is help out there if you are struggling,’’ she said.
She suggested the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255, Samaritans Helpline at 1-877-870-4673, and Boston’s Neighborhood Trauma Team at 617-431-0125.
“For a parent to come to a place in which they harm their children in this way indicates that their mental health struggles were severe,” Rollins said. “This Christmas Day tragedy demonstrates the urgency of addressing mental health, suicide, and homicide.”
If you need help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Jonathan Saltzman and Felicia Gans of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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