DELTONA, Fla. (WFTV) — The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said a woman and her two young children who disappeared earlier this week are dead, but their bodies have not yet been recovered.
Yessenia Suarez and her children, 8-year-old Michael Otto and 9-year-old Thalia Otto, were considered endangered under suspicious circumstances after family members reported them missing Tuesday night.
The Sheriff's Office said the search for the victims’ bodies and the investigation into their deaths is still ongoing.
Channel 9 has learned Suarez's husband, Luis Toledo, 31, was named a person of interest in the case, but authorities said no charges have been filed.
On Thursday, Yessenia Suarez's family spoke at a news conference begging for her and the children's safe return.
"Please, if anyone see my grandchildren, please, and my daughter, turn them to me, please. If anyone see my grandparents and my daughter, please," said Suarez's mother, Felicia Perez.
Perez called the Sheriff's Office on Wednesday morning and asked for deputies to conduct a well-being check on the 28-year-old at her Covent Gardens Place home in Deltona. When Volusia sheriff's deputies responded to the Deltona address, Suarez and her children were not there.
On Thursday, investigators from Volusia County crossed jurisdictions to pull potential evidence out of a set of dumpsters in Sanford.
Family members said the last time Yessenia's family saw her was Tuesday evening. They have called her cellphone, but said it goes straight to voice mail.
Authorities said one of Yessenia's two vehicles was found by Lake Mary police at a Publix parking lot, but there was no sign of her or her children.
Yessenia's family is trying to hold it together as they wait for word about where Suarez and her two children may be.
"We don't know what to think. We're waiting to see if she calls or appears. We don't want to think the worst," said family member Jose Velazquez. "They are worried. Her mom is crying a lot."
Authorities are calling the disappearance suspicious because they said Suarez, a former worker and current student at Rollins College, had been the victim of domestic violence in Lake Mary on Tuesday.
Channel 9 has learned Toledo and Suarez had been talking about separating and that Toledo was angry over some text messages he found on his wife's phone.
That's when he showed up at American K-9 Detection Services, where he confronted Suarez and allegedly slapped her.
Witnesses said Toledo was calm when he left the business Tuesday but when investigators told him over the phone that he could face charges for slapping his wife, they said Toledo got angry and hung up on them.
Suarez's family said the three went missing just hours later.
Authorities said Toledo arrived at the house a short time later and was subsequently arrested based on Lake Mary Police Department's battery charge from the previous day.
He was booked into the Volusia County Jail in Daytona Beach.
"They've been arguing for the past two weeks," Brandon Haught with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said. "After a domestic violence situation, and then to be out of contact with your own family for quite a while, does raise those suspicions."
"It's really hitting hard and for me and my wife it's been a nightmare and this nightmare hasn't ended," said Ruben Perez, Suarez's stepfather.
"I'm reaching out for the community to please, if you guys see her, see the kids, reach out, find it in your heart to call, because as you can see we're very, very distressed and we just ask for your help," Perez said.
Reporter Karla Ray found Toldeo had ties to the notorious Latin Kings gang, which is known across the country for violent crime, authorities said.
Channel 9 learned Toledo was arrested on attempted murder charges 13 years ago, but those charges were eventually dropped before he went to trial.
Toledo was accused of luring a woman to the South Orange County apartment complex near Orange Blossom Trail, where she told investigator she saw three unknown men approaching her, one carrying a baseball bat.
The woman said the men had bandanas covering their faces and that they started to beat her up while Toledo repeated, "You set me up."
The 39-year-old victim told investigators at the time she noticed a plastic bag in the back pocket of Toledo's pants. She said it was later put over her head as she was being beaten.
The victim went on to say she felt a cord wrapped around her neck and that she had to tear through the bag to breathe.
Anyone with information about Suarez and her children is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 386-736-5999.