Mother, 2 kids killed in western Pa.

July 10, 2008 11:31:08 AM PDT
A woman and her two young children were found slain in their home, and state police on Thursday said they were seeking the woman's estranged husband for questioning. The bodies of 22-year-old Ashley Guarino, her 2-year-old daughter and 11-month-old son were found by relatives at about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, authorities said. Washington County Coroner Tim Warco said it appeared they were asphyxiated, but didn't immediately say how. Warco ruled the deaths homicides, though autopsies were pending Thursday.

State police issued a bulletin for the woman's husband, Orlando Maurice Guarino, 38. He was not charged with any crime, but police said they wanted to question him.

Orlando and Ashley Guarino had separated recently, authorities said.

Court documents showed the couple traded abuse allegations last month that resulted in a protection-from-abuse order against Orlando Guarino. Among her allegations, Ashley Guarino claimed her husband had held the boy out the window of a moving vehicle.

State police late Thursday morning surrounded a hotel in nearby Eighty-Four, Pa., as they searched for Orlando Guarino. Trooper Robin Mungo said police had credible information that he was at the hotel, but the search turned up empty.

Orlando Guarino was unemployed and his wife was a waitress at the Moose Lodge in nearby Washington, Pa., according to court documents. Danielle Ehrhardt, a neighbor who baby-sat for the couple's children, said Orlando Guarino did make some money cutting grass.

"Anytime they talked to us, they were really happy," said Ehrhardt, 18. The husband "was always real pleasant, especially with his kids." But she said the couple had recently been in a dispute involving the care of the children, 2-year-old Dreux and 11-month-old Orlando Jr.

Ehrhardt remembered Orlando Jr. was just learning how to walk and loved to play with cell phones, while Dreux needed to watch cartoons on TV to help her fall asleep.

Authorities had left the crime scene in Marianna, about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh, by midmorning Thursday. Traffic alert signs on nearby Interstate 79 were flashing the license plate number and description of the white GMC pickup truck that police believe Guarino was driving.

Ashley Guarino got the temporary protection order against Orlando on June 19, a day after the couple argued and Guarino allegedly threatened to kill her and the children.

Her court filing claimed that she and her husband were in a moving vehicle when Orlando Guarino held a car seat - with his son in it - out a window and said, "You wanna see something crazy?" She also claimed her husband had carried the baby into the house on his hip with a butcher knife in the other hand. He also once drove her to a truck in the woods and said he wanted her to watch as he killed himself, she claimed.

Orlando Guarino's request for a protective order against his wife was denied. He had filed papers claiming she and her father threatened to shoot him.

Ashley Guarino and the children moved out of the house after the discord, but recently returned, Ehrhardt said.

Orlando Guarino has a criminal record.

In 2006, he was charged with aggravated assault and related counts, which were all dismissed or withdrawn, according to court records. He was charged in several cases in 1994 and another in 1997. Those cases, which included aggravated assault, weapons and drug counts, resulted in a prison sentence of two to four years, according to court records.

Orlando Guarino has family in New Jersey, authorities said. New Jersey State Police have been alerted and have advised other New Jersey law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for him, State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said.