Some time after checking into the Sheraton hotel in Towson last week, William M. Parente went across the street to the Towson Town Center and bought the knife he used to kill himself.
Baltimore County detectives found a receipt from a mall store for the knife among Parente's belongings after his body was discovered Monday in a 10th-floor room with those of his wife and two daughters, police spokesman Cpl. Michael Hill said Thursday.
Parente beat and asphyxiated the girls, Stephanie, 19, and Catherine, 11, and their mother, Betty, 58, police said. Afterward, the New York man - now the subject of an investigation into his investment dealings - used the knife to commit suicide.
A manager at the Crate & Barrel store in the mall said Thursday that detectives had visited the store. The visit and the questioning of employees there was confirmed by Hill, but he could not say for sure whether the knife had been purchased in that store because he had not seen the receipt.
As federal investigators deepened their probe Thursday into complaints that Parente, a 59-year-old attorney, had mismanaged millions of dollars of other people's investments, the scope of the allegations was far from clear. But victims have come forward with tales of lost fortunes.
The notion that the tragedy of the Parentes might have financial roots arose shortly after the discovery of their bodies at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel. As Baltimore County detectives began looking for relatives of the family to inform them of the deaths, they called people whose numbers were listed in William Parente's cell phone, Hill said. Some of those people turned out to be investors who, informed that he had died, lamented that their money might be gone with him.
The information that detectives collected about Parente and his financial dealings was sent to the FBI, Hill said. A spokesman for the FBI's New York office, James Margolin, confirmed that the bureau had launched a probe into Parente's activities.
Bruce Montague, an attorney in Bayside, N.Y., said he lost about $450,000 in investments with Parente, according to two of his associates at the law firm. One of Montague's partners said he had sent a letter to New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday accusing Parente of fraud.
Cuomo's office in New York confirmed that it had received the letter but said that, because the FBI had begun investigating Parente, there was no need at present for the attorney general's office to do so.
Several of Parente's troubled investors have called Montague's law firm, if only to vent, said Joseph D. Levy, a lawyer who works there. He said one who called Thursday had lost "in the half-million range." Another attorney in the firm, Steven B. Drelich, said Thursday that at least three people have called to say they lost about $4 million to Parente.
"We've been contacted by others who have lost millions of dollars," Drelich said. "What he did to his family is unforgivable. The face of evil can be pretty ordinary."