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BARNSTABLE — Tuesday morning, a grandmother entered a house where, hours before, her daughter had been found repeatedly stabbed to death. The crime scene had yet to be cleaned. A pink toy car peeked out of a nearby wooden shed.

The woman picked up a few pieces of clothing for her two grandchildren, said David Foley, a Barnstable police detective. She left Foley to lock up. “The kids have been at the police station all morning,” he said.

Police discovered the slaying at 89 Trout Brook Road shortly after 2 a.m. after a flurry of 911 calls, according to a police report. Outside the home, authorities found Christopher S. Fratantonio. Inside, they found the body of his wife, schoolteacher Mary J. Fratantonio, who was 35. Her nickname was Molly.

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The husband was charged in the death of his wife — a killing that, police said, happened while the couple’s young children were in their home in the Cotuit neighborhood of Barnstable.

Once transported to the Barnstable Police Department, Christopher Fratantonio, 36, gave a “detailed description of his motive behind the attack” and how he carried it out, including the location of the knife he used, according to a police report.

Later that afternoon, he pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in Barnstable District Court. A short, bearded man, his arms covered with tattoos, Fratantonio looked dazed as he entered the courthouse.

A police report said he tattooed songbirds on his neck, a reference to 1980s horror movies on his left arm, and on his right arm, a name: Molly.

He’s charged with one count of murder and two counts of assault and battery by means of a deadly weapon.

Judge Edward Sharkansky ordered Fratantonio held without bail at the Barnstable County Correctional Facility. He’s expected to return to court March 27 for a probable cause hearing.

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Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said the children, ages 2 and 6, were home at the time of the killing, but he declined to say whether the children witnessed any aspect of the crime.

The children were placed in the custody of Mary Fratantonio’s parents. The Department of Children and Families was called in to assess the situation.

Mary Fratantonio started working in September as a special education teacher at Barnstable High School, Barnstable school officials said.

“We are deeply saddened by this loss,’’ Superintendent Meg Mayo-Brown said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Molly’s family, friends, and loved ones.’’

Mayo-Brown said the school department activated its crisis team to offer support for staff and students affected by Fratantonio’s death.

O’Keefe said investigators have identified a “triggering event’’ for the crime, but he declined to discuss it during the ongoing investigation.

Christopher S. Fratantonio was formerly known as Christopher Scott Melvin, according to court records. He legally changed his name to Fratantonio, which is his mother’s last name, in 2005, records show. O’Keefe said investigators are looking into the reason but stressed police are not focusing on the name change.

Neighbor John Linkamper, 67, hired Fratantonio to put floors in his house a year back. They spent a bit of time together. One of Fratantonio’s daughters would run and hug Linkamper’s leg when she saw him, yelling, “Hi, John!”

Linkamper said he was up until 3:30 a.m. Tuesday but didn’t hear anything from the neighboring home.

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“They were a quiet, good couple,” said Ann Razee, 52, Linkamper’s girlfriend. “I don’t get it.”

Richard Aliberti, a retired high school guidance counselor, lives down the street from the Fratantonios. Aliberti and his wife knew the victim. His wife would speak to Molly often because they were both educators.

“She was just a nice person,” Aliberti said. “I never had the sense that anything was wrong at the house.”

Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.