April 15, 2011 — -- A Texas man allegedly killed his two young sons and then sent gruesome photos of the dead children to their mother, including a picture of a toddler hanged.
Gabriel Armandariz is facing capital murder charges and is being held on $1.5 million bond.
He was charged after police in Graham, Texas, police found the bodies of Armandariz's 2-year-old son, Gatlin, and 6-month- old Luke on Thursday morning.
Armandariz, 28, started sending menacing text messages to his ex-girlfriend, Lauren Smith, at the beginning of the week, friends said.
The couple were due to have a custody hearing next Monday. On Wednesday, the angry text messages took a graphic and tragic turn.
One photo reportedly sent to the woman's phone shows the boys lying on a bed with Armandariz and accompanied with the photo is the message, 'We love u goodbye,' the Associated Press reported. An even more shocking photo followed.
"She [Smith] showed me a picture of her son hanging. Neither of us believed it was real. You can't imagine that to be real," Douglas Ames said.
Ames owns the Chuck Wagon, the restaurant that Smith works at as a waitress. When Smith came to Ames with the photo Wednesday, they alerted police. Police won't comment on how the boys died.
Smith and Armandariz had a brief telephone conversation following the graphic text message, Ames said.
"He kept saying, 'I can't believe you're making me do this'...we hear what we believe to be him [Armandariz] hanging himself. The phone went dead," Ames said.
Five minutes later, he called back, escalating the 28-year-old woman's fears about the safety of her kids.
At around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Graham police officers began a search for Armandariz and the boys. Police did not find the boys until 10 hours later. The boys were found at Armandariz's home, police told ABC News. Police would not reveal the condition of the bodies and why the search for them took 10 hours, but the AP reported that the bodies were discovered under the house.
Smith has been living with her sister and brother-in-law for several months.
"She...moved here with us to get out of an abusive relationship," Smith's brother-in-law Jesse Vanmeter told KAMC.
While the family claimed Armandariz was abusive to Smith, he had never been abusive to the children, they said.
Texas Father Accused of Murdering Young Sons
"The father was never abusive to the children and never even portrayed that he could be," Vanmeter said.
Both boys had been living with Armandariz for the past two months. The family claims Armandariz refused to bring the boys back to Smith when she let Armandariz visit with them.
Smith's coworkers have rallied around her, organizing a pancake fundraiser to cover the costs of the funeral.
"Everybody is trying to do whatever we can to help," Ames said. "The girl is just destroyed."