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Test results show source of deadly gas that killed Moorhead family of 7

The case of the Hernandez-Pinto family's deaths is now closed, according to Moorhead police.

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The Hernandez-Pinto family.
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MOORHEAD — The results of blood tests intended to identify the source of carbon monoxide that killed a Moorhead family of seven reveal that the gas came from a furnace in an attached garage of their home.

The investigation stemmed from the deaths of Belin Hernandez, 37; Marleny Pinto, 34; Breylin Hernandez, 16; Mike Hernandez, 7; Marbely Hernandez, 5, Eldor Hernandez Castillo, 32; and Mariela Guzman Pinto, 19. The family was found dead Dec. 18 at a south Moorhead twinhome at 4403 13th St. S.

The Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office in St. Paul determined the cause of the family members' deaths was carbon monoxide poisoning within days of their deaths. Police narrowed the source of the gas to either a furnace or a vehicle parked in the garage, Moorhead Police Chief Shannon Monroe said at the time.

Results of blood tests released Monday, Jan. 24, helped eliminate the vehicle as a source of the carbon monoxide. The tests checked for blood cyanide, which would be present "if the poisoning were the result of a combustion engine from a vehicle," Moorhead police said in a statement.

The blood tests came back negative for blood cyanide, ruling out the vehicle and leaving the furnace as the only possible source of carbon monoxide, police said.

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The furnace was in a separate room in the garage and was functioning properly, Monroe said. The state fire marshal and an HVAC specialist were unable to "duplicate a furnace malfunction whereby carbon monoxide was entering the home," according to a Dec. 22 statement from Moorhead police.

The home was about 54 degrees when emergency workers arrived Dec. 18, Monroe said, noting that was likely because the furnace was on air mode and went out at some point, but the fan was still circulating.

Documents indicate a city inspection in 2017 called on the owners of the twinhome, JEM Property Development, to repair the furnace as it was not providing the appropriate amount of heat.

A carbon monoxide detector in the home was found detached from the wall and in a laundry room cabinet with the battery removed, Monroe said. It had been replaced with a smoke-only detector.

The investigation into the seven deaths is considered complete, police said, and the case is closed.

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