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There were angels watching. Steven Snow felt them Friday as he and his wife cleaned the small Hamilton Street home where, only weeks ago, he found four of his friends -- no, family -- dead.
Mr. Snow, 49, will be arraigned Monday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, where he is charged for their deaths. If convicted, he faces 20 years in prison.
Sometime before the bodies of Tamara McDaniel, 39; Damien Reyes, 18; Domonique Reyes, 16, and Taralynn Wood, 10, were officially identified, someone from the Lucas County Coroner's Office called Mr. Snow -- he was listed as a contact in one of their cell phones as "Cousin Steve."
He knew the children from the time they were "this high," he said, holding his hand level at his knees.
Mr. Snow is charged with four counts of reckless homicide for putting a generator inside the 1319 Hamilton St. home where the family fell asleep March 22. The family, whose bodies were found March 23, died from acute carbon monoxide poisoning.
Ms. McDaniel wanted to move to the Hamilton Street home for a new beginning, friends have said. Mr. Snow bought the home in December, 2010, as a "family house" to help friends who might need a place to stay, to get back on their feet.
Inside the Hamilton Street house Friday, Mr. Snow and his wife, Elizabeth Snow, found an open utility bill under a mattress in the living room, addressed to Ms. McDaniel's home in the 200 block of Colburn Avenue, where she was still living last month. The bill had the new address written on it and a 1-800 phone number for the utility company.
When the bodies were found, there was no electricity, heat, or water at the house.
After Mr. Snow found the bodies, he removed the generator from the house, putting it in the bed of his truck before police arrived on the scene.
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"If you see four dead bodies of the people you love, how can you explain pulling the generator out of the house?" he asked, wiping tears from his face.
On his cell phone, Mr. Snow saved a text message from Ms. McDaniel, which was sent at 4:50 p.m. March 18:
"Im still waiting for damien to get here where im at now and it look like he will have to call for the light and gas," it read.
"They had just asked for the key," Mrs. Snow said. They just wanted to start moving in a few things. The house wasn't ready for them to move in; Mrs. Snow was still preparing a lease.
"They had us believing [Toledo] Edison was coming that night [March 22] to turn on the electricity," Mr. Snow added.
When he took the generator to the home, he had intended to pick it up a few hours later -- he only put $10 of gasoline in the tank, he said. But lingering injuries from a work-related accident nearly a decade ago force him to take oxycontin and percocet, which makes him fall asleep, he said.
He never made it back to the home that night.
The injury happened Sept. 27, 2002, when Mr. Snow was working as a longshoreman for Toledo World Industries. Mr. Snow said he was standing on the docks when he bent down to pick up his hard hat -- when he stood, a large hook, which he says was the size of a truck, struck him in the head.
Since then, he has had multiple surgeries for his eyes and ears. He has lingering back problems and, most troubling, he says, memory loss.
Inside his South Avenue home Friday, Mr. Snow showed photos taken after the accident. His said his attorney will use those photos as part of the defense, stating the injury impacted his ability to know the generator would cause the family harm.
"That's why I'm not thinking like a normal person thinks," he said. "I just knew something wasn't right with my head."
Ms. McDaniel and her children were good friends with the Snow family, more like relatives. Mr. and Mrs. Snow have a 16-year-old son, Dominique. He grew up with the others and, when he was young, was baby-sat by Ms. McDaniel's older sister.
"We go back 20 years," Mr. Snow said. "Whenever they needed clothes or a shower, we'd say, 'Come on in.' "
"They always knew where the snacks were after school," Mrs. Snow added. "I'd have pops and cupcakes and snacks on the table for them. If they needed a shower, I'd rush them upstairs and say, 'Take off your clothes, all the way down to your socks and get in that shower,' and I'd get them clean clothes.' "
Mr. Snow said he won't run from the situation if he's found guilty, but hopes that people learn from the tragic mistake.
"This didn't have to happen," he said. "But since it did, I hope we can turn it into educational programs. Let's try to teach folks to not get into this predicament. We can't afford to not help one another."
Inside his home, with his wife by his side, Mr. Snow began to cry.
"If I had that day to do over again, I would have jumped in that vehicle and got them out of that damn house and bring them back here," he said. "They always slept over here."
The porch at the home filled with stuffed animals left by friends and family in the days and weeks after the deaths. Mrs. Snow said she filled three large bags with the toys and donated them to the Ronald McDonald house.
"My heart was pounding," Mrs. Snow said. "You could feel someone there with you."
"Angels," Mr. Snow said quietly. "Angels were watching."
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: email@example.com or 419-724-6054.