Children’s slayings stun Danbury community: ‘I can’t believe it’

DANBURY — Dozens of people gathered around the home of a young Danbury family Friday to remember three children who were killed Wednesday by their mother, who later took her own life.

About 100 people came to Whaley Street to mourn and light candles in front of the house. White balloons and flowers decorated the front porch. Cars were double parked on the street, and surrounding streets of the normally quiet neighborhood.

Pedro Panjon stood near the side of his house with police officers.

He told reporters earlier Friday that he returned home from work Wednesday to find a letter from his wife.

He then discovered his three children — Junior Panjon, 12; Joselyn Panjon, 10 and Jonael Panjon 5 — strangled to death and his wife, 36-year-old Sonia Loja, dead in a backyard shed.

A crying and distraught man called police to the home at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday where they discovered the horrific scene. Police later said Loja killed her children before taking her own life.

Mourners struggled to comprehend the tragedy.

“I don’t understand what happened,” Portilla Gonzal said. “I can’t believe it.”

“There’s no words to say,” he added.

People started to gather for the vigil around 7 p.m. Friday. People were asked for a moment of silence and a prayer was said for the family in Spanish and the children were told to light the tall candles on the front porch.

One attendee was 12-year-old JC Diaz. He attended gym class with Junior — volleyball tournaments and tennis — and said Junior was “really nice.”

Portilla Gonzal said he has known Panjon for eight years. The two used to work together at a landscaping company. He described Panjon as a family man who loves his children and his wife.

“Whenever we had to work late, he had to sometimes leave early to pick up his daughter,” Gonzal told Hearst Connecticut Media. “They used to be a beautiful family.”

Last month, representatives from the state Office of Early Childhood told Loja to close her day care business. The agency had received an anonymous complaint about an unauthorized day care business on the property, a spokesperson for the agency said.

The agency visited Loja four times. She faced fines of up to $100 per day if the unlicensed operation continued, according to state records.

Raquel Vasquez said Loja babysat her 8-year-old son, Jack, for three years. Whenever Vasquez saw the mother of three, she said she was “very sweet.”

“She was very nice and a happy lady,” she added.