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Couple in apparent murder-suicide in Frederick were scientists

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The Frederick County sheriff's office identified three family members who were shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide Wednesday night in New Market but said they would wait until speaking with relatives before releasing more information.

Benyam Asefa, 40; Barbara Giomarelli, 42; and Samuel Asefa, 3 months, were killed in the shooting in the 6800 block of Woods Court, deputies said. A 5-year-old girl escaped the home unharmed and ran to a neighbor's house, where a neighbor called 911. Deputies found a handgun at the scene.

Asefa and Giomarelli were scientists. Asefa taught undergraduate biology courses at Hood College as a lecturer from 2005 to 2012, a school spokesman said. NIH officials said Asefa worked at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute as a clinical immunologist and also worked at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Frederick from March 2012 to September.

Giomarelli, a native of Italy in the U.S. on a temporary work visa, worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore for three years before quitting in February, a spokesman for that institution said. NIH said she was also a fellow in the Molecular Targets Development Program in the Center for Cancer Research from 2004 to 2009.

The shooting has rattled the quiet, family-oriented Pinehurst neighborhood of Lake Linganore, where residents say most crime is limited to the occasional teenage nuisance, such as a car break-in or graffiti.

Fred and Kathleen Humbert, who live on a cul-de-sac around the corner, take their kids to the neighborhood bus stop where they then board the school bus with the 5-year-old girl. The couples had been family friends, Kathleen Humbert said, and the two men had been planning to have coffee in the next week or so to talk about a possible business venture.

When they heard about the shooting Wednesday night, the Humbert parents rushed home from a Washington Capitals game to be with their children. They kept them home from school Thursday to allow them to process what had happened only a few houses away, Kathleen Humbert said.

"It's a tough situation," she said as she cradled a baby in her arms. "It's tough for the kids at school."

She said Asefa and Giomarelli had seemed like very normal people.

"They had their ups and downs like anybody else," she said. "But nobody thought anything like this would happen."

Lake Linganore, tucked back in the woods off Old National Parkway, offers plenty of activities for families: In the summer, many attend a local concert series, a farmers' market and other community get-togethers, said Gary Snead, who has lived in the neighborhood for five years.

Neighbors are close, too — they maintain a community Facebook page, where they keep up a dialogue about local issues. A cluster of new houses is being built alongside others with families who have been there for over a decade.

Snead took some time Thursday to reflect with his stepson. The event puts little neighborly disagreements that sometimes crop up in perspective, he said, and the community will need time to recover.

"It's absolutely devastating," Snead said. "The shame of it is some people are not going to have it that easy. That little girl is one of them. Hopefully, there's some family members who can take care of her."

The 5-year-old girl is in the care of Child Protective Services while authorities investigate. Officials said they wanted to speak with relatives of the victims, expected Friday afternoon, before releasing more information.

The sheriff's office is asking anyone with information about the case to call Cpl. Dave DeWees at 301-600-3677.

Just down the block from the house where the shooting occurred, Sue Faibisch said she'd looked outside Wednesday night to find an "unsettling" scene: a group of police cars parked in her driveway. When she inquired, officers said they couldn't tell her what happened. She found out later, on the news.

As of Thursday afternoon, the house was dark, with only a few media vans remaining on the street.

The Humberts' early Christmas lights and a neighbor's Halloween decorations stood out at the end of their wooded suburban street as the sun went down Thursday.

"People move here and they stay here to raise their kids," Kathleen Humbert said. "It's a great place to live."

One house nearby had a handwritten message in the door.

"This is a nice neighborhood with good people," it read. "We are all shocked and deeply saddened by the recent tragedy and mourn the loss of a family. God bless the brave little girl who escaped. We join our neighbors in prayer and hope for her future."

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