‘Going around in circles’: Family of two teens found dead in Washington apartment await answers



Daisy Zavala/The Seattle Times

EVERETT – Betsy Alvarado struggles to focus on the sweet memories of her two daughters as two months after their deaths she still has no answers.

All over her Everett home are photos of Adriana and Mariel Gil smiling as young children and teenagers. Around his neck, Alvarado wears a heart-shaped locket that reads “Adriana and Mariel, forever in our hearts.”

Adriana and Mariel, aged 17 and 16 respectively, were found dead on December 11 with their father, Manuel Gil, in the Renton apartment they shared.

Renton police said the girls appeared to be dead on Dec. 5, while Gil likely died about a day before the three bodies were found. There were no signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, no obvious indications of foul play, visible trauma or signs of a struggle, police said.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office performed autopsies in mid-December but were unable to determine a clear cause or manner of death, prompting further lab testing. . The results are still pending.

Detective Robert Onishi, who has worked with Renton police for 30 years, said he had never seen a case like this.

“We’re at things like toxicology,” he said of efforts to determine a cause of death. “We don’t have a clearer resolution than a month ago, or even a few months ago at this point.”

The gap in days between the sisters’ and their father’s estimated times of death leaves no doubt in Alvarado’s mind that Gil, with whom she ended a relationship around 2007, had something to do with the death of their daughters, she said.

Without answers

Neighbors had seen Gil packing items into a U-Haul a few weeks before Dec. 10, leading Alvarado to believe he had left with the girls. But she had no way of knowing what was going on because her daughters and their father then cut off all contact with other family members, she said.

The night before the girls and their father were found, Alvarado had repeatedly asked the police to enter the apartment, but said she felt there was no real emergency in the way. which officers responded.

Police said they went to the apartment on December 10, but it was locked. Officers did not go inside as they did not notice anything suspicious from outside.

The next morning, after learning that the police were there, the landlord entered the apartment and found the bodies.

Alvarado said she felt frustrated and ignored after the deaths when her emails to police went unanswered for more than a week on multiple occasions.

“I feel like I don’t trust the police,” she said. “I was ignored and I am still being ignored.”

Onishi said the department had been as responsive as possible under the circumstances. He also said he was frustrated at not being able to provide concrete answers to the family. He sees no way for the police to go beyond what they are doing now.

“There’s not much to update for the family,” he said.

Adriana had been living with her father for about four or five years and Mariel had moved in with them a year and a half ago. Alvarado’s parenting plan with Gil only allowed him to spend time with the girls every other weekend, but she says she felt powerless to seek his respect and had none. not the means.

“If you don’t have thousands of dollars to go out and hire an attorney to enforce your parenting plan, then you’re stuck,” Alvarado said. “You go around in circles with it. It’s like that for people who don’t have money.”

About the changes

Looking back, Alvarado said there were several red flags about girls’ behavior that several organizations and agencies missed.

The girls’ school attendance was sporadic, but it’s unclear whether the school could have intervened or reported their absences, said Renton Police Detective Tracie Jarratt, who is handling the case. The Renton School District declined to comment, saying it would defer to police since the case is still open.

On November 1, Gil told the human resources department of the moving company where he worked “that he had to work things out with his creator” before quitting abruptly, his ex-wife told Alvarado.

Alvarado said she called child protective services in April or May to report concerns that the girls may have been abused and were malnourished after each losing about 50 pounds.

The state Department of Children, Youth, and Families reviewed the report, but the agency did not send a referral to police for follow-up because their investigation concluded that “the situation is not has not met the assessment threshold,” Jarratt said.

DCYF declined to comment on the matter.

Alvarado said she believed Gil’s extreme religious beliefs led her daughters to become increasingly estranged from her. It was a gradual change, she says, but the girls became malnourished and cut off contact with the outside world.

“People didn’t want to touch it. Nobody wants to get in trouble for messing with someone’s religion, but now my kids are dead,” Alvarado said.

Alvarado said her daughters were followers of the Hebrew Israelite Faith while she suspects their father followed an extremist sect of the Black Hebrew Israelite Faith that is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League. Extremist cults are known for their belief that whites are agents of Satan, Jews are false worshipers of God, and blacks are racially superior and are the chosen people, according to the ADL.

“They just pulled back a lot,” Alvarado said. “They stopped finding joy in a lot of the things they were in. Everything became mundane to them…which means it was wrong or meaningless.”

Giving up hobbies

Ron Anderson, the girls’ stepfather, remembers going to a play with Adriana and Mariel in which his youngest daughter starred. As the room filled with laughter and applause, Adriana’s facial expression remained stern, an unusual thing for the teenager who usually cheered loudly for her stepsister, he said.

“I just thought that was the weirdest thing,” Anderson said.

Anderson had entered the girls’ lives when they were around 3 years old, shortly after they moved to Washington from New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Alvarado’s parents, Chris and Irma Amundson, helped raise the girls for a few years when they were younger and remember Adriana as always taking on the leadership role with Mariel right next to her as a “sidekick. “.

They took the girls on several trips and vacations. Their favorite was to take the girls to Guatemala City, Guatemala, where Irma was born and raised, to meet family members and experience the culture and food.

But that was before the girls distanced themselves from family, they said.

Mariel, who had a creative soul, gave up drawing because she felt she had sinned and needed to atone for it, Alvarado said. She doesn’t remember exactly what made her daughter give up something she loved, but it was clear her biological father approved of it.

“Parents don’t do this for the kids, no matter what they do,” Anderson said. “It was painful to hear.”

Adriana no longer played sports, not even basketball, which she loved and excelled in, Alvarado said.

The last time Alvarado hung out with the girls was in February 2021, when they went to an ice rink and had pizza afterward.

They had planned to go back, but the girls canceled, telling Alvarado they couldn’t be “involved in all that worldly stuff.”

After that, there were no more exits, Alvarado said, and the girls’ responses shortened until they only responded with Bible scriptures and then not at all.

The girls weren’t leaving the apartment anymore, and they cut everyone out of their lives, including their grandparents, who were “their favorite people,” Alvarado said.

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