By Lynne Tuohy, Associated Press

BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire man who returned home last year to find his 4-year-old son strangled by the boy’s mother and a 7-year-old daughter unconscious pleaded guilty Wednesday to killing his wife as she tried to commit suicide, officials said.

The description in court was the first time New Hampshire authorities have revealed publicly what caused the death of Mason Smeltzer and the injuries to his sister, Mercey Smeltzer, last November at their home in Auburn.

The revelations came as the children’s father, 38-year-old Christopher Smeltzer pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter in the beating death of his wife, Mara Pappalardo.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports.

Prosecutors recommended a sentence of 15- to 30-years with 10 years to serve. Sentencing is set for Dec. 2.

After the hearing, Pappalardo’s sister Maxine Waters called the death of Mason and her sister a “senseless tragedy.”

“We are torn by the outcome,” Waters said. “We loved him, (Smeltzer) as part of our family, but we believe many fundamental questions have been left unanswered,” she said. “Our promise is to give Mercey the love and nurturing our sister would have wanted.”

New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said during the hearing that Pappalardo had been hospitalized in the weeks before her death for extreme paranoia.

Smeltzer and Pappalardo had been living with Smelter’s family in the weeks leading up to the killings, she said, and Pappalardo believed her mother-in-law and husband were trying to take the children away from her.

The family had returned to their home on the night of Nov. 7. Smeltzer went out and when he returned he found his son dead on the bed in the master bedroom and his daughter unconscious.

Young said Smeltzer told police he “lost his marbles” and attacked Pappalardo with a flashlight. She had a rope around her neck and was apparently preparing to commit suicide, Young said.

Smeltzer then tried to kill himself by taking a variety of drugs. Mercey woke him up the next day. He made his daughter tea, called his father and then called 911.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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