YORK, Pa. -- For some time, Valerie L. Gamboa-Taylor had been planning to end her marriage to Paul E. Gamboa-Taylor, friends and neighbors say. They had been fighting frequently.
She moved out a few months ago but came back. Friday night, she stormed out of the house after a fight, according to one neighbor, and returned about noon Saturday. It was the last time she was seen alive.
Saturday evening, city police in York found the bodies of Mrs. Gamboa-Taylor, 23, and two of her children, her mother and a 2-year-old half-brother in the family's blood-spattered apartment in a row house neighborhood.
Mr. Gamboa-Taylor was found with one wrist slashed and knife wounds to his stomach, according to H. Stanley Rebert, York district attorney, who said the wounds were apparently self-inflicted.
Mr. Gamboa-Taylor, 30, was being treated at York Hospital and was under heavy guard. Hospital officials would not disclose his condition.
Mr. Rebert said yesterday he planned to file murder charges against Mr. Gamboa-Taylor "in the next few days."
The victims all died from multiple blows to the head with a claw hammer, York Coroner Kathryn Fourhman-Olewiler said. Mr. Rebert said a hammer was found at the scene.
One child, Rockelle Gamboa-Taylor, 5 months, was spared. She was taken into protective custody, Mrs. Fourhman-Olewiler said.
The Gamboa-Taylor children -- Paul E., 4, and Jasmine E., 2 1/2 -- were killed while they slept in their beds, she said. "They never moved. They never knew what hit them."
But Donna M. Barshinger, 42, Mrs. Gamboa-Taylor's mother, put up a "pretty violent struggle," Mr. Rebert said. Her body and that of her 2-year-old, Lance Thomas Barshinger, were found in their bedroom. The mattress had been tossed on the floor, and lamps and tables were overturned. The entire right side of Mrs. Barshinger's face was crushed, Mr. Rebert said.
There was no evidence, however, that Mrs. Gamboa-Taylor struggled before she was killed, he added.
Mrs. Fourhman-Olewiler said the children and Mrs. Barshinger were killed in the early morning hours Saturday. Mrs. Gamboa-Taylor died some time between 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, she added. Police got to the house sometime after 7 p.m., responding to a barely audible call to their 911 line.
Neighbors were bewildered by the weekend's bloodshed. "I can't understand why" it happened, said Donna Lewis, 31, who grew up with Mrs. Gamboa-Taylor in the working-class neighborhood in southwestern York with an almost even mix of blacks, whites and Hispanics.
"Val thought the world of him, and he thought the world of the children," she added.
Neighbors described Mr. Gamboa-Taylor, who lost his job as a mechanic and production line worker at a nearby dental supply company in January, as a quiet man who often took his children to a nearby park.
"He's a real family person, a birthday-parties-for-the-kids-at-McDonald's type," said a woman who identified herself only as Teresa and who said she, too, grew up in the neighborhood.
"He helped me fix my girlfriend's car one time, but he never said much," added Ramone Reinhardt, who lives directly across the street from the Gamboa-Taylors' apartment.
The woman identified as Teresa described Mrs. Gamboa-Taylor as "the nicest person you would want to meet. She minded her own business.
"If there's anybody you'd want to bring back, it would be her," she said.
But many of their friends knew that the couple had been struggling and that Mrs. Gamboa-Taylor had threatened to leave.
"She did it once," said Bonnie Boyle, whose daughter grew up with Mrs. Gamboa-Taylor. "She went to a homeless shelter, but she didn't like it and went back home. . . . They looked like they were going to be OK."
Despite the frequent arguments, Mr. Gamboa-Taylor did not abuse his wife or children, they said. "He didn't beat her or nothing," Mrs. Lewis said.
Some time Friday, they apparently argued again. Ramon Reinhardt, who lives directly across the street, said he heard the couple fighting and saw Mrs. Gamboa-Taylor leave in a car with a friend, Tina Markle, who couldn't be reached yesterday.
Authorities say Mrs. Gamboa-Taylor spent the night at Ms. Markle's home on North Queen Street in the northwestern corner of the city. By the time she returned, her family had been slaughtered.