NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A couple and their 5-year-old daughter were found dead last night in Harlem.
Many around the world are mourning a mother who spent her life saving others, reports CBS2’s Cindy Hsu.
Officers found the 46-year-old father, Yonathan Tedla, hanging in a bedroom. The 42-year-old mother, Jennifer Schlecht, was discovered in a bathroom, and their slain 5-year-old daughter was also in the bedroom.
Investigators said it appears to be a case of murder-suicide.
The couple was going through a divorce but neighbors say they hadn’t noticed anything unusual.
Police responded to a 911 call for a wellness check around 9:15 p.m. Wednesday at an apartment building on West 121st Street near Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard.
Police said the mother and daughter suffered trauma to their necks, and a knife was recovered on the scene.
Schlecht spent her life helping others, especially women and children in crisis.
“We are devastated and horrified by this unimaginable news,” said Sarah Costa, executive director of the Women’s Refugee Commission. “Jenn was family to the Women’s Refugee Commission both during her seven years with us and after her time here.
Jennifer Schlecht, In Refuge: Family Planning in Humanitarian Settings
“She brought joy and light to all who knew her and was an unyielding champion for the rights of displaced women everywhere,” said Costa. “Most of all, she was a phenomenal mother who loved her daughter with all she had. Our hearts are broken today and our prayers are with Jenn and her family.”
From the United Nations Foundation: “We will all remember her for her life and the thousands of lives she enriched rather than the horrible way she died. We are utterly devastated.”
Schlecht had filed a restraining order against her husband back in 2016 for acts of threatening behavior and harassment. The couple was due in court Wednesday, hours before their bodies were found.
Niketa Sheth is a domestic violence survivor and the executive director of Womankind, a shelter for survivors. She was devastated by the story and wants others to know there is a lot of help available.
“What often feels like the hardest moment in someone’s life, that darkness, when you’re facing that moment to really know that you’re not alone, and to be able to recognize that there is hope in organizations and individuals like us are there to lean on,” said Sheth.
She says the key is to reach out for help.
Neighbors and friends are planning to hold a vigil for the family on Thursday night.
The medical examiner will determine the exact cause of their death.