Friends and co-workers of veteran Prince William County park ranger Carrillo Dean knew him as a dedicated employee and doting family man -- the furthest thing from a killer anyone could imagine. But upon learning that Dean was charged yesterday in the slaying of his wife and two stepchildren in their Triangle home, Dean's ex-wife, Sherry Muroski, thought back to troubling conversations during their marriage.
From time to time, Dean -- an otherwise "sweet" and "God-fearing" husband and stepfather -- would speak of his dreams, in which he had "a desire to do violent things to people," said Muroski, of Richmond. "He wouldn't, because he knew it was wrong. But something inside him wanted to do it."
Dean, 44, a senior park ranger with the county's Park Authority, called a non-emergency police number about 10:45 p.m. Thursday, said 1st Sgt. Kim Chinn, a police spokeswoman. He "indicated there was a problem at his house," without providing police with more details, Chinn said.
A police sergeant who knew Dean found him waiting outside the house, Chinn said. Police then searched the house and found Dean's stepchildren, 13-year-old Connor Kirk and 14-year-old Brittany Kirk, shot in their bedrooms. Elizabeth Dean, 45, was found shot in a different part of the house, police said.
Officials said it appeared that Connor was shot in his bed while sleeping and that the gunfire might have woken Brittany. Carrillo Dean's mother, Hilda, was present in the home but was not harmed.
Connor and his mother were dead at the scene, and Brittany was flown to a hospital, where she died about 3:20 a.m., police said. Dean was arrested before Brittany died and was charged with murder in the killings of his wife and stepson. He will now face a third murder charge, police said.
Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said his office would seek a capital murder charge, allowed under state law in multiple killings.
"There is no doubt we will charge him with capital murder. The question is whether we will seek the death penalty," Ebert said. "The puzzle is why he would kill innocent people, including two children. To drag children into that whole situation just doesn't make sense."
Police recovered a handgun that they believe was used in all three slayings. They declined to comment on whether Dean confessed to the slayings but said he has been "cooperative."
A preliminary investigation did not turn up any prior violent incidents at the house or any records of domestic abuse or restraining orders, Chinn said.
Whatever was troubling Dean, it eluded friends and neighbors on his quiet, wooded cul-de-sac. The man they knew as "C.D." was "an all-around nice guy" and a devoted caretaker of his wife, Elizabeth, who had a bone ailment and could not eat wheat products, said a neighbor, Sean Peterson.
"He'd make her dinner every night . . . special dinners that don't have wheat," said Peterson, 29. "When she had to go somewhere, he'd walk her out to her car so she wouldn't fall. . . . He must have snapped."
Muroski, who was married to Dean from 1996 to 2002, said he was a good stepfather to her two daughters and never displayed any violence in the home. She encouraged him to seek help for his violent dreams, but to her knowledge he never did. She also said Dean was extremely religious, expressed fears that the family would be persecuted for its beliefs and wanted to pack up and move away.
Park Authority spokeswoman Dianne Cabot said Dean worked an eight-hour shift Thursday beginning at 1 p.m., checking in at parks he patrolled in the eastern half of the county. She said co-workers who came in contact with him that day found him to be his normal jocular self.
Prince William schools spokesman Ken Blackstone said that Brittany was in ninth grade at Forest Park High School and Connor in seventh grade at Graham Park Middle School. Blackstone said the school system would make counselors available, as needed, into next week.
One Forest Park High student who had known Brittany Kirk since middle school said that she had a good sense of humor and a silly streak, but that she was also shy.
Students and staff described the atmosphere at Forest Park as somber, and students said the counseling department was busy. There were wet eyes in every classroom.
Elizabeth Dean was the mother of both children, police said. The family lived together in Triangle, a small town about 50 minutes south of Washington, just off Interstate 95.
Park rangers do not carry firearms and do not have arrest powers. They keep a close watch on parks, making sure patrons obey posted rules, settling disputes and calling authorities and rescue workers in emergencies, Cabot said.
Dean worked for the Park Authority for 23 years, beginning his career in 1985 as a ranger aide and rising to senior ranger in 1989, Cabot said. He served as the chief park ranger briefly from March 2004 to June 2005. He stepped down from the position at his own request, to once again serve as a senior ranger.
He was appointed a "special police officer" in 1996 and 2001, giving him a special police badge and the ability to issue county parking tickets, according to Circuit Court records. He was not, however, authorized to carry a weapon. In October 2004, he was appointed a "special conservator of the peace," giving him similar powers. According to court records, he also worked part time at the Old Virginia Tobacco Co. His salary with the Park Authority was about $49,000 a year.
"He had spoken to people at the end of his shift and all through his shift, and he was in a great mood," said Cabot, the park authority spokeswoman. "The park authority is in great shock."
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