HANOVER COUNTY, Va (WTVR) – In Kristina Hooper’s eyes, 3-year-old twin daughters Madison and Caroline were perfect in every way.
“They were just sweet and happy and funny,” says Hooper, choking back tears.
Inseparable from birth, both girls loved school, playing outside and making up their own words.
“If you were grouchy, you were pokes,” laughs Hooper. “So Caroline would say, ‘Maddie stop being pokes!'”
But on Saturday, January 28th, Kristina Hooper’s world went dark when the bodies of her two daughters and estranged husband were found inside his Hanover County home.
Police say 40-year old Robert King, a sheet metal mechanic, made a duct tube connection from his van’s exhaust to the interior of his home.
Hooper recalls seeing the tubing going into the girls’ bedroom as she walked toward the home. She had gone to check on her daughters after King failed to answer his phone that day.
Frantic as she opened the front door, Hooper says she could hear the carbon monoxide detector and smell gas.
She found all three bodies lying on the bed in the bedroom.
“I tried to pick up one of the little girls and she was cold and hard and had foam coming out of her mouth,” recalls Hooper. “He had slit their throats.”
Shaking and screaming, Hooper says she ran into the driveway and called police for help.
King and Hooper separated in October, after Hooper says the couple became distant. She claims King admitted to her a year before that he had stolen thousands of dollars in merchandise while shopping with his daughters.
While her relationship with her husband soured, she says he remained a doting father. “He really devoted a lot of time to them.”
Despite having visitation rights every weekend, Hooper says King began leaving her erratic text and voicemail messages. She says his behavior would change from bitter and angry to happy and upbeat. She claims one weekend, he refused to give the girls back until her lawyer intervened.
A psychological evaluation was ordered after Hooper says King gave a social worker several video tapes of her dropping off and picking up the girls, along with several home videos of the children. The worker told Hooper that something was odd about his behavior.
“It was a week before Christmas, and she said ‘I would have to take a week off of work to watch all these video tapes.'”
Hooper says the evaluation was scheduled for February. It would come too late.
“He couldn’t have them, so no one was going to have them,” Hooper believes.
She says she is comforted by family, friends and the outpouring of support from the community. However, it does little to ease the pain of her loss.
Hooper wonders what more she could’ve done, if there were warning signs she or the social workers missed.
“It’s beyond me,” she says. “I can’t try and figure it out.”
But she is sure her estranged husband committed the ultimate act of betrayal to her and their children. “I think it’s the most selfish thing you can do.”
“I watch a video of them every night until I fall asleep,” she says of her twins. ” And I sleep in their bed.”
When asked if that brings her any comfort, she replies, “No, I just want to touch them again.”