Loved ones of the Parentes walked into an empty Garden City home yesterday to begin arrangements for a funeral next week for three members of the family.
Among the relatives' tasks: choosing dresses for Catherine Parente, 11, and her big sister, Stephanie, 19, to be buried in.
"The casket's going to be closed," said Joseph Mazzarella of Massapequa, a cousin of the girls' mother, Betty Parente, who is to be laid to rest with her two children.
Services will be Tuesday at the family's Catholic church.
William Parente, 59, a Manhattan attorney with a side business as a broker of short-term commercial loans, fatally beat and asphyxiated his wife, Betty, 58, and daughter Catherine, a sixth-grader at Garden City Middle School, in a Baltimore-area hotel room Sunday, police said. He waited several hours with their bodies before his daughter Stephanie came to the room, where she was also killed. Parente cut himself and bled to death, Baltimore County police said.
Their bodies were not found until Monday.
The family was visiting Stephanie, a sophomore at Loyola College in Maryland. Their visit was a surprise, Stephanie's roommate said yesterday. For the third day, scores of people came to the Parentes' home on First Street, where the doorstep was cluttered with melted candles and mementos.
Kathleen Amodeo of Massapequa, another cousin of Betty Parente's, said they had been negotiating with Garden City police to get access to the house to find Social Security numbers, which were needed for death certificates.
Mazzarella, a North Bellmore funeral parlor director, is to receive their remains.
The family was struggling to understand why Parente killed his family, Amodeo said. At recent get-togethers, the Parentes were excited about Stephanie's plans to study abroad; Parente gave no hint of financial problems.
Betty Parente "doted on him and the children," she said.
A relative of William Parente declined to speak to a reporter yesterday.
Eryn Helfant, 28, of Manhattan, also visited the house yesterday. She said since she was a baby, Helfant and her family spent summers with the Parentes in the Hamptons, where each family owned a condo. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, they would barbecue and play on the beach. "It's hard now to look forward to the summer knowing people are going to be missing," she said.
While the motive for the homicides may never be fully known - no suicide note has been found - allegations that William Parente had financial troubles surfaced just after his death.
Forensic tests were being conducted on several objects from the Sheraton hotel room where the family died to see if a murder weapon was among them. The tests could take weeks or longer to complete, police said.
In a letter to Loyola parents posted on the school Web site, Loyola president the Rev. Brian F. Linnane encouraged students to seek support from counselors. The school will provide transportation for students who want to attend services on Long Island.
Wake and funeral
Visitation for the Parente family will be Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Park Funeral Chapels on Jericho Turnpike in Garden City Park.
The funeral will be Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Joseph's Church on Franklin Avenue in Garden City. Burial will be at St. Charles Cemetery in Pinelawn.