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Published: Sunday, 4/17/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Family struggles to cope after 4 sudden deaths

Woman recalled as a parent who focused on education

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Robert Reyes, Jr., 20, and his father, Robert Reyes, Sr., talk about the deaths of Robert Jr.'s mother and younger siblings from carbon monoxide poisoning on March 23 in a home on Hamilton Street. Robert Reyes, Jr., 20, and his father, Robert Reyes, Sr., talk about the deaths of Robert Jr.'s mother and younger siblings from carbon monoxide poisoning on March 23 in a home on Hamilton Street.
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Robert Reyes, Sr., took a deep breath. His face, shaded by sunglasses, dropped.

"Are you OK, Dad?" Robert Reyes, Jr., asked, reaching back, resting a hand on his father's knee.

The Reyes family was ready, ready to talk about how the four people -- who they love more than anything -- were tragically and unexpectedly taken away from them on March 23.

Tamara McDaniel, 39, and her children Damien Reyes, 18; Domonique Reyes, 16, and Taralynn Wood, 10, were found dead inside 1319 Hamilton St. at about 10:30 a.m. March 23. All four died from acute carbon monoxide poisoning after the homeowner, Steven Snow, 49, put a gas-powered generator in the kitchen March 22. The home was without water, electricity, and heat.

Mr. Snow has been charged with four counts of reckless homicide and could face 20 years in prison if convicted.

Friends and family all have said Ms. McDaniel was moving her family to the Hamilton Street home for a fresh start, which her son, Robert Reyes, Jr., 21, echoed. Robert Reyes, Sr., and Ms. McDaniel were not living together at the time.

He said he last talked to his mother on March 21. She was excited about the new house -- there was a bedroom for each of the children. She said Damien was going to put the utilities in his name -- the 18-year-old said it was time for him to be responsible. She told her son that everyone was fine, they didn't need help with anything.

Ms. McDaniel was a great mother, her son said. She always checked in, making sure he was getting his homework done. "She helped me graduate," he said. "She wanted me to go to college."

Education was important to the mother of five -- she also has a 13-year-old son Daniel McDaniel, who lives in East Toledo. She worked extra shifts at the Mango Tree, 217 South Reynolds Rd., whenever she could to help send Robert Reyes, Sr., to school to study medical assisting. He will graduate in November with an associate's degree.

Damien was on track to graduate from Waite High School this year. Robert Reyes, Jr., said he will wear his brother's cap and gown and sit in Damien's seat at the ceremony to collect his brother's diploma.

Robert Reyes, Sr., is the biological father of three of the children, although the family says he cared for all five as if they were his own.

"I was with her 26 years," the older Mr. Reyes said. "She worked full-time while I went to school. I'm addicted to my kids. Nothing mattered but my family -- that's all I cared about."

The older Mr. Reyes hung his head and sighed. He excused himself from the living room of his brother, Joe Reyes.

Joe Reyes said that although his brother went to school full-time, he was home every day when his children left school.

The younger Mr. Reyes said he needed to talk about the love his family shared. They would want that.

"My mom, brother, and sisters want me to be strong for them," he said. "They're in heaven. I know they're safe."

Family members said they don't know what will happen to Mr. Snow, but they hope this is a learning experience for others.

Mr. Snow, who knew the family and said he was trying to help them, took the generator to the home but said he had intended to pick it up a few hours later.

But lingering injuries from a work-related accident almost a decade ago have him taking Oxycontin and Percocet, which makes him fall asleep, he said. He never returned that night to remove the generator.

"We don't want others to go through what we went through," the younger Reyes said.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054.



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