Mother strangled 3 children, hanged herself, Danbury police say
DANBURY, CT (WFSB) - Three children and their mother were found dead at a home in Danbury on Wednesday.
Police identified the people who died as 36-year-old Sonia Loja, 12-year-old Junior Panjon, 10-year-old Joselyn Panjon, and 5-year-old Jonael Panjon.
They said the children appeared to have been strangled. Loja’s death was suspected to be asphyxia by hanging.
At around 6:30 p.m., officers said they responded a wellbeing call at 10 Whaley St. The caller was said to have been distraught and crying.
When they arrived, officers went inside the single-family home and said they found three deceased people, all juveniles.
While conducting a further check of the property, they reported finding a deceased female in a shed in the backyard.
Pending an official autopsy, police said preliminary findings indicated Loja strangled her three children before killing herself. However, they still called it an active investigation.
Investigators had learned that the mother and children lived at the residence with two other adults, who were not present when police initially arrived. They and other extended family members were contacted and advised of the incident.
Police said the case was an isolated incident and there was no danger to the public.
No arrests were made and they said they were not looking for any suspects.
State police said they were not involved in the investigation.
An autopsy of the deceased was scheduled for Thursday morning at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington.
“The mayor’s office and the city’s police, fire, health, education, emergency management, and health departments, along with Nuvance Health, have coordinated efforts to provide services to the family and friends of the deceased,” said Det. Capt. Mark Williams, Danbury police. “As this is also an emotionally damaging incident for first responders, services have been extended to public safety personnel who responded to the scene. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the victims.
“A truly horrible event occurred in our city yesterday and we mourn the tragic loss of life. In the coming days, mental health and counseling services will be provided through collaboration with the Danbury Public Schools and the City of Danbury,” said Mayor Dean Esposito. “Our community grieves for the innocent lives taken from us. We will get through this together.”
The family says the woman ran a home daycare.
Sonia Loja was the family babysitter. Gabriella Gomez, a family friend, says she was great with kids. Several parents Channel 3 spoke with would also leave their children with Loja.
“The last time she took care of my son was in June, and she called that day saying that someone told on her at the state that she was taking care of children that she needed a license or needed to be certified or something like that and that she can’t take care of the children anymore,” said Gabriella.
Gabriella’s daughter, Shayla, was the 10 year old’s friend.
“We all played together, tag, and we had a good bond together,” said Shayla.
The pair went to school and summer camp together.
“You are good, loving, person and you are really good at everything. I wish I saw you one more time but I can’t,” said Shayla.
The shock of what happened weighed heavy on everyone in the area.
City leaders are offering support to help people cope.
“He used to ride up here in his bike,” said Tom Neville.
Neville said the kids from 10 Whaley Street were always a joy to run into.
“It’s not like we didn’t know or see ‘em or, they’re always full of pep and them running around and having fun. they were good kids,” Neville said.
Erna Grenier agreed, adding their mom was always close by.
“Every day those kids were outside but she was always with them unbelievable, they were happy those kids, if anybody was walking by they would say hi,” Grenier said.
It’s what made the news so shocking.
The investigation is still active, but so far shows Loja strangled the children, before hanging herself.
“That’s the big, big, in my opinion, when kids like that are involved. It’s just awful,” Neville said.
Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito released a statement, offering his support to not only the family, but the community as a whole:
Police are still trying to figure out a motive and so is Mila Reynoso, another family friend.
“Normal los hijos felices. Que pudo haber pasado y no pudimos darnos cuenta aveces quisieramos estar mas cercas para poder saber lo que sucedió. Y poder haberlos ayudados,” said Reynoso.
Mila says the family was happy and she wishes she would have been even closer to the victims and maybe she could have helped. Experts say it is not that easy, but spending time and listening to each other could possibly help catch a red flag.
While it may be some time before police reveal a motive, an expert who studies these kinds of horrible crimes has a theory.
“Just terrible in your own neighborhood. you see it on t-v all the time, but when it hits this close to home, it just, it could happen anywhere,” said Neville.
Dr. Kevin Barnes-Ceeney is an Associate Criminal Justice Professor at the University of New Haven.
He said the trigger in these incidents usually are a lifechanging event, like the end of a longtime relationship or losing a job.
“It could be that they themselves feel they’re letting their children or their family down, or letting their loved ones down, so they feel that everything’s a failure and life has no point. That could be a big one,” said Barnes-Ceeney.
The problem with trying to prevent these crimes is there are hardly any red flags.
Barnes-Ceeney said the best thing we can do is check in with each other often.
“If we could just spend a little bit more time listening to each other, learning from each other and learning about each other. then maybe we’ll be able to see warning signs,” he said.
Starting Monday, the city is providing mental health and counseling services for anyone that needs it.
Many parents in the district are having tough conversations with their little ones about the loss of their classmates. Dr. Laura Saunders says parents should speak in simple, fact based terms.
“Developmentally you want yo keep it very simple. Explain things in simple terms. What I would want parents to avoid is a lot of conjecture. Like maybe they did it for this reason, maybe they did for that reason. I don’t think that’s helpful for dealing with any anxiety or worry that comes up for kids,” said Saunders.
It’ll be provided by the school district’s pupil services support team.
These services have already been offered and provided to the victims’ family, as well as the first responders to this incident.
If you feel upset or hopeless, there is help out there. There is a brand new national crisis hotline, just call 988.
They also have services in Spanish.
The Panjon family is seeking donations to help cover funeral expenses.
If you would like to help the father out, CLICK HERE.
Refresh this page and watch Eyewitness News for updates.
Copyright 2022 WFSB. All rights reserved.