Paul Andrade was the neighborhood ice cream man who drove a white truck playing carousel music around west Hollywood, usually with his 6-year-old daughter, Amira, riding alongside.
Andrade, 30, was a doting father, neighbors said, and Amira was a gregarious, slightly precocious little girl with light brown hair who liked playing with dogs and carrying makeup in her handbag.
An Ecuadorean immigrant enrolled in adult education courses at McFatter Technical Center in Davie, Andrade appeared to be planning for a future as an air-conditioning repairman, neighbors said.
That future came to a tragic end Thursday morning in Davie outside the home of Andrade’s ex-wife, Vicky Paredes, where neighbors found Andrade, Amira and the family dog dead inside a blue Nissan Quest van — victims of an apparent murder-suicide committed by Andrade, police said.
Andrade left a suicide note, said Davie Police Capt. Dale Engle, although he declined to divulge what it said or where it was found.
He said Andrade is suspected of having attached a hose to the van’s exhaust pipe, then placed the hose inside the van where he and his daughter and the family dog remained.
They appear to have died of carbon monoxide poisoning, although the official cause of death is under investigation by the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Engle said Andrade and Paredes divorced about a year ago and that he appeared to be distraught over their failed marriage.
“The father was upset that the mother recently remarried,’’ Engle said.
Andrade had routine visitation rights with Amira, and the girl stayed overnight Wednesday with her father in Hollywood, Engle added.
Sometime before Thursday morning, Andrade drove to Paredes’ home on the 3700 block of Northwest 74th Avenue in Davie with his daughter and dog. He parked outside her corner apartment unit.
“He inserted the pipe in the rear window of the van, attached the other end to the exhaust, and killed himself, his daughter and his dog,’’ Engle said.
A neighbor who arrived on the scene before police said the van’s windows had been sealed with air-conditioning tape.
Leila Lacharite, 33, said she was walking her dog at about 6:30 a.m. when she heard screams. She followed them to find a distraught woman holding a little girl wearing pink pajamas. Two high school students stood nearby. Lacharite, a certified nurse assistant, said she checked the girl’s pulse but found none. She also administered CPR.
“I knew she was gone when I went to pull her jaw down and noticed it was already stiffening,” Lacharite said. “I did everything that I was taught to do. She had been dead for two to three hours. She didn’t have any lacerations. She looked peaceful.”
She said she also saw Andrade inside the van, and a flexible, metallic-colored hose taped to the back window and attached to the exhaust pipe.
“He used tape to seal the window so no air could escape from the gaps,” Lacharite said.
Police got an emergency call at about 6:30 a.m. from two students walking by and spotted the metal pipe attached to the van.
“They alerted a neighbor,’’ Engle said.
By the time police arrived, the child had been removed from the van. Officers found Paredes holding Amira in her arms, rocking her and crying.
The distraught mother was later taken to a local hospital and remained under sedation Thursday evening.
Paramedics tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate the girl, Engle said.
Hours after the discovery, the van remained parked in the driveway.
Inside the van were magic markers, a kite and crayons, a little girl’s handbag and two beige boots, along with water bottles, candy and several cans of Bud Light margarita.
Also, a white sweater with an image of Betty Boop and pink flower prints was draped over the back seat.
Neighbors who knew Amira and the family were heartbroken.
Rita Avalos is a neighbor of Paredes’ in Davie, and she, too, has a 6-year-old daughter, named Ana, who used to play with Amira. The girls were classmates in the first grade at Driftwood Elementary School in Hollywood, and they would often play together in the yard after school, Avalos said.
“I have no idea how I’m going to tell her about this,” Avalos said in tears.
Avalos said Amira used to like carrying makeup in her purse.
“She was a happy child, smart, talkative, friendly and it was obvious to our family that she had a bright future ahead of her,’’ Avalos said in Spanish. “She was going to be somebody in this country.’’
Andrade’s neighbors on the 5700 block of Taft Street in Hollywood said the little girl was gregarious, and loved to play with dogs.
“She was beautiful, very friendly, very happy,’’ said Angela Navarro, 51, who has an 11-year-old daughter named Jennifer who also used to play with Amira.
“She was always playing with the dog,’’ Navarro said of Amira. “She liked to come over to my house because I have two dogs.’’
Navarro and her husband, Hugo, 63, said they knew Andrade to be a quiet, responsible and friendly neighbor.
“He was normal, humble,’’ she said. “He went out every afternoon to sell his ice creams.’’
Hugo Navarro said he spoke with Andrade on Wednesday afternoon, and that they exchanged greetings and made small talk.
“He was sad. You could see it,’’ Hugo Navarro said. “But I never thought he would do that.’’
Most perplexing to Hugo Navarro is why Andrade would take the life of his beloved daughter.
“When he watched her, he never let her out of his sight,’’ he said. “He went with her everywhere.’’
He said that Paredes and Andrade lived in the Hollywood apartment with their daughter. Paredes moved out about a year ago, although her name is still on the mailbox outside the fourplex apartment building.
Paredes’ neighbors in Davie said the couple struggled, divorced, but had been on-again, off-again, trying to work things out.
“Vicky had told me that she had broken up with Paul because he had been unfaithful several times,’’ Avalos said. “He wasn’t helping out financially. He wasn’t really being there for her.”
Paredes moved to Davie to be close to her parents, who also live nearby, Avalos said.
News of the murder-suicide shocked and saddened Paredes’ neighbors in Davie, where many are preparing for the holidays. Christmas decorations adorn apartment units.
“What would drive some one to kill that beautiful little girl?’’ asked Katherine Baro, 21, who struggled to make sense of the tragedy. “This is so sad.”
Yoelia Maldonado, a 20-year-old immigrant from Guatemala, said many of the residents are farm workers.
“Christmas is already a sad time for a lot of them who are away from their families, and now this,’’ she said.
“My 2-year old daughter is in Guatemala. I couldn’t imagine losing her that way.”