Banita Jacks, 33, will face charges of felony murder one day after an eviction crew found the bodies of four children in a house southeast of the U.S. Capitol, police say.
Metropolitan police Chief Cathy Lanier tells reporters that her investigators are working on assumption that the victims are Jacks' four children, who were 5, 6, 11 and 17 years old.
"At this time we cannot positively identify them," Dr. Marie Pierre-Louis, the chief medical examiner, says during a news conference. Pierre-Louis says the oldest girl appears to have been stabbed, while the other three girls may have died from asphyxia or poisoning. "The bodies were very desiccated," she says.
The medical examiner says her office plans to work with the Smithsonian Institute to find a way to confirm the identity of the murder victims. She estimates they were there for at least 15 days, based on the insects they found on the bodies.
The city agency that handles child-protective services says it received a report about the family last spring.
"We were unable to find them at any of the numerous times we attempted to make contact," spokeswoman Mindy Good tells The Washington Post. "Then they disappeared. We went to the residence, and it was vacated."
Mayor Adrian Fenty says the attorney general's office is beginning a comprehensive review of the family's contacts with child-protective services, school officials and the police department.