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REACTION: Neighbors stunned by deaths

Stunned neighbors and friends were reeling yesterday from the news of the murder-suicide of a Garden City family of four, saying they had only questions about what led to such a violent end.

"I just can't make sense of it," said Cathy Grasman, who works at a Floral Park animal grooming and boarding facility that is caring for the two Maltese dogs the family dropped off last week, before their visit to see their eldest daughter in Maryland.

Outside William and Betty Parente's First Street home, which overlooks the Cherry Valley Golf Course, some who knew the couple left bouquets of flowers at their doorstep.

"My wife and I were deeply, deeply fond of this family and are just absolutely devastated," said next-door neighbor Robert Krener, who sold the Parentes their home 12 years ago and developed a friendship with them, getting together for dinners and exchanging presents. "You could line a hundred families up and they would be the least likely candidate" for this, he said.

William Parente, 59, Betty Parente, 58, and their two daughters - Stephanie, 19, a sophomore at Loyola College, and her sister, Catherine, 11 - were found dead Monday afternoon inside a locked hotel room at the Sheraton Baltimore North.

Newspapers had piled up at the Parente's ranch-style house, said Krener, 64. When the police came to the neighborhood Monday night, Krener searched the Internet for information and discovered the tragic events.

Seymour Eidman, a Manhattan lawyer who in 2001 shared a suite of offices with William Parente, an attorney, said, "Every Christmas, we got a card with a picture of Bill, his wife and daughters," Eidman said. "It is beyond belief," he said of the deaths.

Garden City schools superintendent Robert Feirsen said the district put a statement about the deaths on its Web site and informed parents. Today, grief counselors will be in each school, he said, and tonight, a session will be held for parents at the high school.

Garden City High School freshman Julie Fedele, 14, said, "You never really think that's going to happen. It's creepy."

Staff writers Anthony DeStefano and Christina Hernandez contributed to this story.

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