NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — A 7-year-old girl found dead in her home in a New York suburb this week was suffocated by her father, police said.
Neil White, 47, was charged with murder in the death of Gabrielle White, who was found dead Tuesday in their home in New Rochelle, police said during a news conference Wednesday.
Neil White had slash wounds on his arms, police said.
White's wife, Michelle Hord-White, an executive at NBC, filed for divorce in April, according to Westchester County records. The couple was living apart and shared custody of Gabrielle, police said.
“No words could sum up all that Gabrielle meant to us but she was our light," Hord-White and her family said in a statement. "We are broken and devastated that our sweet little girl is gone but we’re thankful that we had seven wonderful years with her."
Hord-White, originally from Detroit, works as vice president for talent acquisition and campus programs at NBC Universal and previously worked at America's Most Wanted, according to her Facebook page.
Gabrielle's body was discovered by a babysitter. Police Capt. Robert Gazzola said the sitter had exchanged texts with Neil White around 1:40 p.m. Tuesday.
"She grew concerned based on the conversations that they had back and forth. So she went to the house to just check on the daughter,” Gazzola said. “She saw Mr. White had cuts to his wrists. She saw some blood. She checked on the girl, and she saw that she wasn't moving, and she called us."
Gazzola said the blood found in the house is believed to be Neil White's.
Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll said, "We're not going to speculate on a motive at this time."
"It hurts our community," Carroll said about the death. "We feel for the family at this time."
Gabrielle, a second-grader at William B. Ward Elementary School in New Rochelle, had not gone to school Tuesday. Police said they were looking into whether Neil White had called in her absence.
Neil White was treated for his wounds at a hospital. He appeared in court Wednesday a blue hospital gown, wearing only tan socks on his feet. He had bandages on both forearms. New Rochelle City Judge Anthony Carbone ordered him held and issued two orders of protection, for his wife and for another person. He's due back in court June 15.
Police said they believe the cause of death to be asphyxia by suffocation but they said the exact cause is pending an autopsy. Police did not say when they thought she had been killed.
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said Wednesday: "This is an exceptionally painful day for New Rochelle. Our entire community mourns this tragic event and is united in offering thoughts and prayers to Gabrielle's mother and to all who knew and loved Gabrielle."
Bramson said he has worked with members of the White family and has known them personally for years.
"For all friends of the family, this is devastating news that we will long struggle to comprehend," he said.
Contributing: Chris Eberhart of The Journal News