American mother Amy Hunter arrived at a parking lot near her home in West Sacramento on New Year’s Eve to pick up her daughters, Sara, 9 and Sophie, 12, only to find them dying beside the corpse of their father.
The car was parked at the designated drop-off point for the girls, near West Sacramento’s City Hall in the US.
The victims’ parents had been involved in a custody battle for years, reported Sacramento Bee.
The two girls were later declared dead by West Sacramento Police in a murder-suicide by their father, Hamdy Rouin, 46, a Tunisian immigrant who was also found dead in the car.
The mother described her ex-husband Rouin as an abusive man and heavy drinker who had hit her, and threatened her to take the girls away to Tunisia, according to sacbee.com.
The mother who converted to Islam, and other family and friends from her Islamic religious community gathered on Tuesday evening for a vigil where she lived with her little girls.
She filed for divorce in December 2014 and it was finalized in December 2016. Rouin was allowed supervised visits once a week with his girls after completing a court-ordered parenting class.
The father gradually got access to the girls and was allowed unsupervised visits as he was listed as having joint legal custody in a November 2016 document, while the mother retained sole physical custody.
Hunter, his ex-wife, was very involved at Salam Academy, the full-time Islamic study center that her daughters attended before it closed last May, Amer said.
“She used to be a full-time teacher there, and also worked at our bookstore for a number of years,” Amer said. “She served on Salam Academy’s education board and helped with bake sales and fundraisers.” Amer said Rouin would show up, but Hunter kept him at a distance.
Hunter filed for divorce in December 2014, six months after she filed the first of several temporary restraining orders against Rouin. In a declaration filed with the court, Hunter described a constant stream of threats and verbal and sometimes physical abuse.