California prosecutors have accused a man of using a belt to kill two of his three children in a domestic violence incident last week that left all three kids dead, PEOPLE confirms.
Robert Hodges, 32, is charged with three counts of premeditated first-degree murder in connection with the deaths,Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig said at a news conference on Monday.
Hodges is also charged with two counts of use of a deadly weapon and one count of attempted murder, for an alleged altercation with his wife, Reisig said.
The children were found dead in an apartment in West Sacramento, California, on Wednesday night, authorities have said.
At 9:22 p.m., police responded to a call at the residence. On their way to the scene, officers received another call that “there were possibly three children deceased,” according West Sacramento police Sgt. Roger Kinney.
“It’s horrific and very difficult to deal with,” Kinney previously said.
Officials identified the deceased children as Kelvin Hodges, 11; Julie Hodges, 9; and 7-month-old Lucas Hodges.
The criminal complaint alleges their dad used a belt as a deadly weapon against Kelvin and Julie, but the coroner’s office has not disclosed how Lucas died.
“The mother is holding up the best she can, considering her three children were murdered,” Kinney told PEOPLE about Hodges’ wife, whose identity has not been released due to the nature of the incident. “She has a lot of family support.”
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Hodges was arraigned on Monday afternoon and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is being held without bond.
He requested a public defender and is expected to return to court on Oct. 2 for a preliminary hearing.
In the series of charges against Hodges, court documents state there were special circumstances in multiple murders and accuse him of lying in wait. Under California law, this makes him eligible for the death penalty should he be found guilty.
Reisig told reporters on Monday that it could “take months” to determine whether prosecutors would pursue an execution.
The community has been shaken by the news.
Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto told the Sacramento Bee that it is the worst mass killing in the county since he took office in 1999.
“It is absolutely devastating to a lot of us, even those of us not directly involved in the investigation,” Prieto said. “This is the first triple homicide that I’m aware of. But even a double or triple homicide of adults is a different issue. When you start talking about infants, it’s just so devastating.”
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West Sacramento’s Sgt. Kinney said many of the first responders were rattled at the scene and counselors have been provided.
“Something like this is very disturbing,” he said. “The officers are absolutely impacted, along with the firefighters, and certainly the family, the neighbors — this call is going to have quite a bit of emotion.”
“It’s horrific, and it’s very difficult to deal with,” he said. “This is going to take not hours, not days. It’s going to take a long time to come to grips with what happened there.”