UPDATE: APRIL 11, 1:30 P.M. | This story has been updated to reflect the most recent press release by the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office which ruled the cause of deaths to be murder-suicide.
SPRING HILL, Fla. (WFLA) – A man killed two children before committing suicide inside a home in Spring Hill Friday morning, Hernando County deputies said.
Derick Albert Vasquez, 43, and two children were found inside a home on Dunkirk Road Friday morning after deputies responded to reports of a shooting and a fire. Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said the 911 caller “had serious concerns about what was happening inside the home.”
The caller was a woman who reportedly received a suicidal text from Vasquez. Preliminary investigation reveals that Vasquez killed the two children before committing suicide.
“It’s really a heart wrenching story. We’re here as a result of a call we got about ten minutes after 10 o’clock, that a home on this block was on fire and there may possibly be deceased individuals inside that home,” Nienhuis said.
The first deputy to arrive at the home on Dunkirk Road tried to enter the home, but was turned back by heavy smoke. Two more deputies and a supervisor arrived a short time later and also tried to enter the house.
“Unfortunately their efforts were in vain because ultimately we did find that there are three deceased individuals inside. Right now a very preliminary investigation is, that there is one adult and there are two children,” said Nienhuis.
Crews put out a fire in the bedroom, then found the three individuals, an adult, a teenager and a preteen.
The children’s identities are being withheld due to Marsy’s Law.
Larry Pina who lives next door told 8 On Your Side a family of five lives there. They moved in less than a year ago, and he doesn’t know them well.
8 On Your Side did obtain HCSO records that showed deputies were called to the house after an argument on March 22nd.
One woman at the home was taken in for further questioning by detectives. The sheriff says the investigation could take weeks.
Nienhuis did reiterate resources available for suicide prevention and domestic violence help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.
“Certainly now, when people are stressed out even more than they normally would be, they need to reach out for help,” Nienhuis added. “This is certainly not an option, it should never be an option.”
Shannon Sokolowski is the executive director of Hernando’s Dawn Center, a resource center for domestic and sexual violence victims.
She says calls to their hotline have plummeted since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, a trend reflected statewide and the opposite of what many expected to see.
However, Sokolowski thinks the explanation for that downtick is more sinister than what you would assume.
“We think victims may be suffering in silence at home,” she said, due to stay at home orders. “Right under the watchful guise of a perpetrator, and unable to pick up a phone and call.”
The Dawn Center’s crisis hotline is 352-686-8430 and staffed 24/7. Their shelter is also open and ready for victims as well. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other helpful resources include the Florida Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-500-1119.
You can also dial 2-1-1 for help and remember you can always call 9-1-1 in an emergency.
The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, the State Fire Marshal and the Medical Examiner’s Office are investigating the incident.
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