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Layton • Ken Warhola arrived home from work Wednesday to find his wife had used a bed to barricade herself in their son's room, police say.

Sun Cha Warhola asked her husband to give her 10 minutes; he forced his way inside after several minutes had passed.

She told him not to look at the bed where their 8-year-old son, James, and 7-year-old daughter, Jean, lay covered by a blanket, according to police. Ken Warhola felt his son's cold face, then called 911 from a neighbor's home.

Sun Cha Warhola, 44, apparently strangled the children as they fought back, said Layton Police Lt. Quinn Moyes. Wounds on all three of their bodies spoke of a struggle.

Davis County prosecutors have charged Sun Cha Warhola with two counts of aggravated murder — a crime that could carry the death penalty.

Neighbors said they knew all was not well in the Warhola marriage, and in the past few weeks police were often called to the family's home at 2184 N. Snowqualmie Circle.

But no one thought harm would befall the two young children, the ones who set up lemonade stands and chased their small dog through the neighborhood.

None of the fighting that brought police to the house involved the children, Moyes said. It was always between the adults.

Moyes could not immediately say how many times officers had been called to the home. A spokeswoman for the Division of Child and Family Services would not say whether the agency had been contacted about or had worked with the family.

Court records show a history of domestic violence: In 2007, Ken Warhola, 46, pleaded no contest to a domestic assault charge, and in February both the Warholas were charged with domestic assault following a fight in the Layton post office parking lot.

The couple had been talking about marital problems at a Taco Bell in Clearfield, according to a police report. When the conversation was finished, Ken Warhola said he was going back to work as a contractor at Hill Air Force Base. She followed him to the Layton post office and demanded to be taken to work with him to prove he wasn't having an affair, the report said. The two fought, pulling each other in and out of the cars.

Sun Cha Warhola and her husband both pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and received probation in connection with the incident.

A 2007 disorderly conduct charge against Sun Cha Warhola was dismissed. But she pleaded no contest in 2002 and guilty in 1998 to misdemeanor intoxication charges. In a 1998 case, she pleaded guilty to criminal mischief.

Despite the marital problems, James and Jean never seemed to be abused or mistreated, said neighbors Coleen and Rick John. The children always seemed well-fed, clean and well-cared for, and didn't seem reluctant to go home, they said. The family had recently returned from a trip to Disneyland. They had lived in the home for about five years, the Johns said.

The children had a dog, a Yorkie they named Indiana Jones, said neighbor Karra Porter. They would take it for walks almost every day, and, almost inevitably, the dog would get loose.

"All the time, they'd go up and down the street, chasing their dog," calling his name, "Indy!" Porter said.

But the Warholas often didn't seem concerned where their children were — whether they stayed late at a neighbor's barbecue, waited for hours to be picked up at the bus stop, or played in the road unsupervised, the Johns said.

Even when the children were about 2 and 3 years old, former neighbor Tillie Arguello said she often saw Sun Cha talking on the phone on her back porch as her children played in the front yard.

Then last week, Sun Cha came by the Johns' home. She said she had been staying at a shelter to escape her home, but came back because the children wanted to, according to Coleen John. She told them her husband had abused the children, then escalated the claims against him until they were unbelievable.

"I thought if there was something bad, it was going to be between the husband and wife," Coleen John said. "It's all of us who failed those children ... I feel [terrible] that I didn't go knock on the door."

Moyes said officers investigated Sun Cha Warhola's abuse claim; no charges were filed.

Meanwhile, the gregarious children weren't only loved in the neighborhood. They also had many friends at East Layton Elementary School, where they were in second and third grade, said Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams.

Their classmates are struggling to understand what happened, Williams said, and teachers are notifying them gently. A team of eight grief counselors was on hand Thursday to help them work through their emotions.

Reporters Bob Mims, Erin Alberty and Jason Bergreen contributed to this report. —

What's next?

An initial court appearance is scheduled for 1 p.m. today at the Farmington courthouse.