NAPLES - Jean Damas Sr. paused Sunday morning, when asked if he believed his son, Mesac Damas, had killed his wife and five young children.
"Yes," he said quietly. "Yes, I do."
Deputies had discovered the bodies of the children and wife, Guerline Damas, 32, in several rooms at the family's North Naples townhouse Saturday night.
Guerline Damas' brother, Forends Dieu, said he was told the victims' throats were cut.
"In no uncertain terms, this is the most horrific and violent event this community has ever experienced," Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said.
Mesac Damas, 33, officially considered a "person of interest" in the case, left Miami International Airport on Friday for Haiti, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Michelle Batten.
Authorities there were searching for him Sunday. Family members said he has relatives there.
Deputies' attention was first drawn to the house Friday evening, after Guerline Damas' sister called the Sheriff's Office to say she hadn't heard from her sister in a day.
A deputy conducted a welfare check at the family's townhouse in a gated community. After scanning the outside of the home and finding no signs of forced entry and getting no answer at the door, the deputy left.
The sister filed a missing person's report at noon the next day. Authorities obtained a key Saturday evening and found the bodies.
Damas on Thursday night had left Miller's Ale House in Naples, where he worked as a cook. His car was later found at the airport. Investigators were combing it Sunday for evidence.
Sheriff's Capt. Chris Roberts said the older children attended school on Thursday but were absent Friday. The children were identified as Michzach, 9; Marven, 6; Maven, 5; Megan, 3; and 11-month-old Morgan.
Their mother worked at a local Publix supermarket and did not show up on Friday either.
Roberts said local investigators were working with U.S. agencies that can assist them in Haiti. Any extradition would take time, he said. The United States has an extradition treaty with the country dating to 1904, but no official procedure is in place, according to the Web site for the Organization of American States.
Roberts said the couple had been married two years but together for about 10.
Authorities, friends, family and acquaintances all described the relationship between the Damases as troubled, if not regularly abusive.
Mesac Damas was arrested in January on a battery charge, in which he was accused of striking his wife, causing her to drop the youngest child.
He was involved in three other domestic violence cases since 2005, one in which he was the accused and two in which he accused Guerline Damas.
A judge dismissed one of those charges against Guerline Damas and declined to issue a protective order in the other case.
In the 2005 case against Mesac Damas, a judge issued Guerline Damas a protective order, but the wife requested it be lifted days later.
Likewise, Pierre Merone the senior pastor of First Haitian Baptist Mission of Naples, where the family attended months ago, said Guerline Damas had spoken to him about the abusive relationship.
Jean Damas Sr. said his son told him last week that he thought his "wife has somebody else." "Jealousy," he said.
That was an emotion both apparently had felt.
In an undated posting on his Facebook page, Mesac Damas suggested he had changed his ways - "NO MORE OTHER WOMEN" he wrote in capital letters, adding "AS FOR ME IN MY HOUSE WE WILL SERVE THE LORD."
Marie Aimee worked with the slain woman and knew about the troubles.
"We always said, 'Guerline, if he tries to kill you, just leave him,'" Aimee said Sunday. "Don't let him kill you."
"Guerline had a beautiful life," said Aimee, Guerline Damas' best friend. "But she always had problems with that guy."
She said she had been telling Guerline Damas for years to leave her husband, whom she married two years ago after the birth of their fourth child together.
Mesac Damas' parents are members of the First Haitian Baptist Church, 14600 U.S. 41 E., said Pierre Merone, the church's senior pastor.
"Mesac used to be my church member, but nine months (ago he) never attended church anymore," Merone said.
Merone said he never had any problems with Damas, and said he seemed to be a quiet and "very intelligent guy." He described Guerline Damas as a "very good mother."
"She used to share something with me about the way Mesac treated her in the house," Merone said, adding that she was abused by and afraid of her husband.
Neighbors said they often saw the three older children at the bus stop in the morning. The oldest was protective of his two younger siblings, warning them to stay out of the street.
They were also seen playing in their yard and saying hello to neighbors in the community landscaped with palm trees and filled with light colored town homes, many of which have screened patios in the back.
Neighbor Vebi Shuaipi said the family was very nice and friendly.
Family and friends, meanwhile, were left to cope with the enormity of the loss.
"It's very tough to figure out how we're going to bury six family members all at once," Forends Dieu, 37, older brother of victim Guerline Damas, said on Sunday.
Information from the Associated Press and the Naples Daily News was used in this report.