A Weston father who thought his world was crashing down around him apparently wanted to take his life and everyone else he loved with him.
Pedro Jose Maldonado, 53, started with his wife and his teenage son. He used a crossbow to kill them.
Then, investigators say, he got into his SUV and drove 450 miles to Tallahassee, where his 21-year-old son, Jose, was a student at Florida State University, intent on killing him with the same weapon.
His arrow missed. It nicked Jose’s ear.
By early Wednesday, the elder Maldonado was dead, after driving 100 miles east to Lake City, renting a hotel room, and slitting his throat in a bathroom. Before that, Broward Sheriff’s Office investigators said, Maldonado called a friend to say he had killed his wife, Monica Narváez-Maldonado, 47, and his younger son Pedro Jose Maldonado Jr., 17. Both had been shot with what deputies described as a handheld crossbow that fires small darts.
Columbia County authorities found his bloody body in the Cabot Lodge Motel. His black 2013 Volvo was in the parking lot.
Broward sheriff’s investigators did not disclose a motive, but friends said Maldonado and his wife had overstayed their visas from Ecuador and he feared being deported. In addition, the father may have lost a thriving business of exporting police supplies to South America.
Investigators believe Maldonado began his rampage Monday when he killed his wife and son at their townhouse in the 4200 block of Vineyard Circle. They think he then drove to Tallahassee and rented a motel room. Just after 7 a.m. Tuesday, he accosted his older son and shot the crossbow, but the dart just grazed the young man’s ear. Deputies say the father then tried to choke his son, but the younger Maldonado escaped. He did not report the attack.
At the time, no one was aware that there was a crime scene in Weston. That changed at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, when Maldonado called a friend in Miami and confessed to killing his wife and son. The friend called authorities.
A Broward Sheriff’s Office SWAT team immediately went to the townhouse and found the bodies. Later, they learned that Maldonado was staying at a motel east of Tallahassee.
By 11 p.m. Tuesday, a SWAT team evacuated the hotel and its Crisis Negotiation Team was trying to contact Maldonado. About 2 a.m. Wednesday, SWAT team members forced their way into his room, and found him in the bathroom, dead of an apparently self-inflicted knife wound to the throat.
Cypress Bay High School students feared something was wrong Tuesday night when the younger Pedro Maldonado, a drummer with the school band, did not show up to perform in the band’s winter concert.
“He had a really big part in the concert,” said Santiago Estrada, a freshman in the band, who described Maldonado as a great leader. “We had to do the concert without him.”
The teen did not respond to numerous text messages and calls from band mates as they prepared to take the stage.
The 17-year-old was already dead along with his mother in their townhouse at the Courtyard at the Grove, a short distance from Cypress Bay.
Several neighbors said Maldonado and his family, who moved to Weston only a few months earlier, were quiet and kept to themselves. The neighbors said they never heard or saw anything unusual — other than the younger Pedro’s drumming.
Pedro’s classmate Isabel Sandoval, who was also a neighbor, said the teen they called Peter never talked about his family. His father, she said, would sit in the garage with the door open and watch the neighborhood kids play soccer.
Another neighbor, Marie Saboutin, said the father was distant, and would avoid eye contact and never said hello to her or her husband.
Wednesday night, more than 200 students, parents, teachers and others gathered around a ficus tree, many of them holding candles. A few choked back tears as band mates and classmates remembered Pedro. At the end of the vigil, a group of friends released two white balloons in his and his mother’s memory. Everyone gazed up as the balloons disappeared into the night.
Cypress Bay classmates were trying to cope with the loss of their classmate.
“He was so dedicated to his music,” said Santiago Estrada. “He was an inspiration. I want to be a musician like him. I want to be as good as he was.”
Pedro had been in school bands since middle school, said Victoria Martí, a fellow band member. “It was his passion. It was what he lived for,” said Martí, also his partner in a jazz band.
Students and teachers were shaken by his death, she said.
“Our teacher was crying really hard,” she said.
On Wednesday, she couldn’t help but think about him. “ I kept expecting him to walk in any minute,” she said.
The surviving son was in touch Wednesday with Ecuador’s consul in Miami to seek help transporting the bodies of his family members back to their home country.
Information from the Sun Sentinel and The Associated Press is included in this report.