A father going through a custody battle with his estranged wife allegedly pumped exhaust fumes from a van into a bedroom at his home before cutting his throat and those of his three-year-old twin daughters.
Police received a call at 3.30pm on Saturday from the girls' mother, Kristina Hooper. When they arrived, she was sobbing on her knees at the end of the gravel driveway, court records revealed.
'My babies are dead, they're in the house,' she told officers in Mechanicsville, Virginia.
Devastating: Twins Caroline and Madison King were allegedly murdered by their father Robert King at his home in Richmond, Virginia before he killed himself
Snatched away: Kristina Hooper, left, with her twins Caroline and Madison, who a family friend described as at the centre of her world
Robert D King, 40, and twins Caroline and Madison King died as a result of cuts to the neck and carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Hanover County's chief medical examiner.
Deputies were overcome by fumes and had to ventilate the modest, one-story home before entering.
Flexible tubing had been attached from the exhaust pipe of King's van and snaked into the front bedroom, where the three were found dead.
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Sheriff deputies removed duct tape, two notes, a video camera and several other items from the home.
The twins lived with their mother Ms Hooper at her home in Hanover County but both parents were fighting for custody. The twins had been visiting their father at the weekend and Ms Hooper went to the house after calling several times and getting no answer.
Custody battle: The mother of the twin girls ran screaming from their father's home after finding her daughters' bodies on Saturday afternoon
Ordeal: The bodies were removed from the one-storey home in Virginia late on Saturday evening
King filed for divorce in October, accusing his estranged wife of abandoning the family a month earlier. The couple were married in March 2008 and the girls born that August.
Ms Hooper alleged that King's paranoid behavior and verbal abuse, combined with a 'significant shoplifting problem,' were the cause of the failing marriage - something he denied.
She claimed she didn't abandon the family but that both had agreed despite marriage counseling that the relationship was over.
'I don't know if there's any training that can prepare you for an incident of this sort.'
Sgt Chris Whitely, Hanover Police
In court documents, Ms Hooper said the separation followed a decline in King's mental state 'which created living conditions which were intolerable and constituted constructive desertion and cruelty'.
King's divorce attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
On Sunday, mourners left flowers, balloons and teddy bears on the front porch of the home where the girls' bodies were found.
Nathan Cox, a close family friend, told local TV station CBS6 that there were no 'red flags' as to King's intentions despite the fact the family were going through a tough divorce.
In mourning: A vigil was being held tonight in the small town of Mechanicsville, Virginia for the twin three-year-old girls
Pre-planned: Police officers who attended the house had to ventilate it after flexible tubing had been attached to a van's exhaust pipe and carbon monoxide pumped into a bedroom
He said: 'You don't take something from someone that's not yours... and in this case, he took two lives that weren't his.'
Sgt Chris Whitely from the Hanover Police Department added: 'I don't know if there's any training that can prepare you for an incident of this sort.'
A prayer vigil was being organised by the small community tonight to show support for the grieving mother. Ms Hooper's family had asked that mourners bring candles and pink balloons to release in memory of the children.
'It's a tragedy all the way around, to lose two little girls at such a tender age,' a neighbor, Jean Atkins, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. 'It hurts. It hurts everybody that has heard the story.'
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