Robert Hodges, 32, was arrested around midnight Thursday, West Sacramento police Sgt. Roger Kinney said.
Police say they first received a call around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday for a domestic violence incident at a family's West Sacramento apartment. According to The Sacramento Bee, "neighbors say Robert Hodges, 32, choked his wife until she ran out of their second-floor apartment, then smothered the children inside the home". However, a short time later the three children were pronounced dead. Police say the woman was in a relationship with the suspect, but it is unknown if he was the father of the children.
Someone - it's not clear whether it was the mother - managed to dial 911 from inside the apartment, but, by the time police arrived, it was too late for the children.
The children's mother, a victim of domestic violence and Hodges' wife, witnessed Hodges kill the children, Kinney said.
Authorities have not released any details yet of how the murders unfolded or what weapon was used to kill the children.
The names, ages and genders of the children have not been officially released. "The officers are absolutely impacted, along with the firefighters, and certainly the family, the neighbours-this call is going to have quite a bit of emotion. It's horrific, and it's very hard to deal with", he said. It's horrific, and it's very hard to deal with.
"Obviously, she's traumatized, and it's going to take some time to find out what's going on", Kinney said of the mother. Guidance counselors and chaplains will be at the school at least through the rest of the week to help students, teachers and parents deal with the tragic deaths.
Theresa Bustamante who lives nearby, told the Californian television station that she wasn't aware anything was wrong either.
Mother's Day notes from the Hodges daughter to her mother. (These apartments are) so quiet.
Other neighbors described the children as "happy-go-lucky" and said it didn't seem like there was much out of the ordinary.
"We played different games like racing, and I don't know, it's [like] bang".
A candlelight vigil is scheduled on Thursday evening for the three victims, which include an 11-year-old boy, a 9-year-old girl and an 8-month-old infant boy. "It just happened. It's so sad".