In a cruel twist, Ksenia Quiros apparently took her own life because she was distraught over the recent violent suicide of her eldest child, Alexandre "Alex" Quiros.
According to the Office of the El Paso County Coroner, on April 2 the 21-year-old senior Air Force Academy cadet went to the dentist to have his wisdom teeth pulled. Since the procedure required that he be sedated, a friend picked him up afterward and dropped him off at his dorm around 9:30 in the morning. Alex, who was studying astronomical physics engineering and had an outstanding academic record, apparently said he was going to sleep.
But when his roommate opened the dorm room door around 2:30 p.m., Alex's body fell backward into the hallway. He was covered in blood.
An autopsy later showed that he had 28 stab and cut wounds.
Such a violent death might suggest homicide, and the rumor mill seems to agree. Which is one reason why Dr. Daniel Lingamfelter, who performed Alex's autopsy, says an explanation of the case is "really needed."
"In general, the media doesn't really talk too much about suicides," he says. "And for a prominent case like this to come up in the media — that's not just a suicide but a totally uncommon way of ending one's life — that's got to create a lot of confusion for everybody."
But even early on, Lingamfelter says, he had little doubt as to how Alex died. There were no signs of a struggle in the room, Alex was found alone with a knife, and his body lacked defensive wounds. When a person is murdered with a knife, Lingamfelter explains, there are slashes on the forearms and hands, which the victim would have used to defend himself. Alex had just one cut in that area, on his left index finger.
"There was nothing I found that was supporting some kind of struggle with another person," Lingamfelter says.
And while Alex had painkillers, anesthetics and sedatives in his system from his dentist visit, none were in concentrations that would have inhibited his abilities. The El Paso County coroner's office tested Alex for recreational drugs, including synthetic marijuana and bath salts; all the tests were negative. It's also worth noting that Alex sent a coherent email to a professor during the time he was alone in the room.
"He pretty much did it cold sober, which is pretty hard to even wrap my head around," Lingamfelter says with a note of sadness.
About 20 percent of the autopsies Lingamfelter performs are suicides, he says. And while Alex's injuries may seem extreme, he says that emotional pain can lead people to do "erratic and surprising things."
Alex had no recorded suicide attempts in his past, nor any other signs of prior self-harm. But according to the accounts of friends and his own journal entries, Alex was distraught over a recent breakup with his girlfriend. (Like most suicide victims, he did not leave a note.)
The top three methods of suicide nationwide are shooting, asphyxiation and overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stabbing and cutting is so rare that the CDC doesn't even track it. But Lingamfelter says the local coroner's office, which serves much of southeast Colorado, sees perhaps six to 12 stabbing suicides a year.
In fact, a few weeks before Alex's suicide, Lingamfelter examined another suicide victim who had died similarly. He came in with three knives still projecting from his body.
Alex's stab wounds ranged from his forehead down to one of his legs. Lingamfelter says it's impossible to know the order in which he inflicted the injuries, but it's likely that the neck wounds that ultimately killed him were the last.
It's also likely, he says, that Alex inflicted so many injuries because he was trying and failing to hit arteries and vital organs in his body. For instance, there were five stab wounds to his thigh, many of which were near an artery. (In another sign that Alex's death was indeed a suicide, it appeared that he had pulled down his pants to stab there, then pulled them back up when he was done.)
A 2013 report from the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment, the most recent available, shows that in 2013, 150 people took their own lives in El Paso County. Those who are feeling suicidal or considering self-harm should seek help immediately. And those suspicious that someone else is suicidal are also encouraged to call a hotline.
Help is available at Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention (573-7447); AspenPointe (572-6100); AspenPointe Crisis Center (635-7000); or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800/273-8255). Young people who want to anonymously report a suicidal friend or classmate can call Safe2Tell (877/542-7233).