Editor’s note: This story is the second installment of the Renton Reporter’s two-part series, 303 Factory Avenue North, which investigates the mysterious deaths of two teenager girls and their father last December.
On Dec. 11, 2021, first responders learned of three mysterious deaths of two teenage girls and their father that took place inside a Renton home at 303 Factory Ave. N.
The girls were found wrapped in blankets with hoodies over their heads. A detective noted that they were both leaning against a couch “as if they were sitting down to watch a movie, however there was no TV.” The girls’ father was found upstairs laying on his side. He was not in his bed, but had a blanket under his head, fashioned as a pillow.
More than six months passed before the Renton Police Department issued a press release outlining the findings of the King County Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy and toxicological analysis. Officials determined starvation was the cause of death for all three people, but questions remain unanswered about the fate of the family and the manner in which they died.
‘He loved those girls’
Those two girls were Mariel Yadira Gil, 16, and Adriana Dalila Gil, 17. In an interview with the Renton Reporter, their mother, Betsy Alvarado, said she believes their father, 35-year-old Manuel Gil, was responsible for their deaths — as he may have led them down a dangerous path.
Alvarado described her daughters as great kids who were always “worried about doing what was right.” She said Mariel was artistic, while Adriana loved to play basketball and cook. She said they were health conscious.
She said they loved to make the people around them happy, and they were understanding with wisdom “beyond their age.”
When Alvarado and the girls’ father met, they were both very young. They were childhood sweethearts who were together since seventh grade. Alvarado said she was pregnant with their first child, Adriana, at just 15 years old.
She said Gil had problems at school with his behavior and getting into fights. He dropped out of school around the time when they had their daughters. They later moved to New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina forced them to move to the Puget Sound region.
“We went through a lot,” Alvarado said.
Eventually, Alvarado and Gil split up. She recalled that he drank at times, and could be an aggressive drunk. She left as Gil allegedly became abusive toward her, but she maintained that he was never abusive toward their daughters, to her knowledge.
“He loved those girls,” she said. “He was a good, present dad.”
Alvarado claimed that while she had full custody rights to their children, she still wanted their dad to be a part of their lives. He would see them regularly, about every other week.
When the girls were teenagers, Alvarado said one of her daughters wanted to go live with their father after an argument with her mother. Alvarado acquiesced, as she felt her daughters were old enough to make that decision for themselves.
But, Alvarado said that about two years before the girls were found dead in their own home, she began to notice behavioral changes.
“I just didn’t know the extreme-ness of things,” Alvarado said.
At first, she noticed that they had become pescatarians, a notable change to their diet (pescatarians eat only vegetables and seafood). Then she noticed that they began wearing long conservative skirts and wrappings in their hair.
When she asked her daughters why they had adopted these lifestyle changes, they told Alvarado that they would look at the text of the bible and “pray to God” for an answer.
Around 2020, Alvarado’s daughters expressed displeasure with the music their mother would play. Alvarado said she would often listen to hip-hop, R&B, and Latino music. She said her daughters were offended by any music that was not “worship music,” and so she agreed not to play music around them anymore.
More red flags arose as Alvarado’s daughters would cancel on plans they had made together, like going to the skating rink. When she texted her daughters asking why they had canceled or what was going on, Alvarado said they would reply in bible verses they believed to be relevant.
“Everything we would do would be sin,” Alvarado said of her daughters’ attitude toward her. “Hanging with me would make them sin through me.”
Alvarado suspected that their father was influencing them with religious extremism that he had perhaps recently adopted himself.
Black Hebrew Israelite doctrine
In interviews with Renton detectives, a few references to Manuel Gil’s following of the “Black Hebrew Israelite doctrine” were mentioned by some who were close to Gil, including Beatrice Durr-Gil, a woman whom investigators described as his “estranged wife.”
According to detective notes from their interview with Beatrice Durr-Gil, she said that Manuel’s following of the “Black Hebrew Israelite doctrine” was the main reason she had separated from him, and she was concerned that the philosophy was “openly hostile to anyone who was not African American.”
Black Hebrew Israelites, also called Hebrew Israelites, Black Hebrews, Black Israelites and African Hebrew Israelites, is a relatively new religious philosophy. Typically it is groups of African Americans who believe that they are the descendants of the ancient Israelites.
According to the Anti-Defamation League: “There are many sects which refer to themselves with variations of the name Black Hebrew Israelites. Some, but not all, are outspoken anti-Semites and racists.”
Alvarado said that she suspected Gil was not associated with any official Black Hebrew Israelite sect and likely found the faith by doing his own internet research.
A Renton detective’s notes from their interview with Beatrice Durr-Gil read as follows:
“In 2017, Manuel was arrested for DUI during a trip to Oregon with family friends. Beatrice saw that as a turning point in Manuel’s behavior; she felt that he was unwilling or unable to deal with his alcohol issues, and only paid lip service to court mandated group sessions. In 2018, Manuel started obsessively following a YouTube channel, RAPTheNews. This channel consisted of content from a California adherent of Black Hebrew Israelite beliefs. Manuel started watching hours of Black Hebrew Israelite content daily; Beatrice left Manuel in May 2019, alarmed that she saw their young daughter as getting indoctrinated in a belief that seemed to preach hatred of everyone who wasn’t of African descent.”
Gil and Beatrice also had a daughter of their own, which she reportedly became concerned about as he became more interested in the “Black Hebrew Israelite doctrine.” She told police that she moved out in May 2020, and went with her daughter to live in Michigan.
Police asked about how the apartment had been furnished when she had last seen it. Beatrice told them that the apartment had been fully furnished when she left with a red sectional couch in the living room, with a PS4 game console and a television mounted on the wall. The kitchen had a table with four chairs, and she had left a large number of kitchen appliances. The bedroom that she had shared with Gil had a handmade bed frame he had built, along with a desk and a second television. There had been a bunk bed in the girls’ bedroom, along with a beanbag chair and other furnishings.
All of it was a stark contrast from the barren, unfurnished apartment described by police when the family’s bodies were discovered.
No one to hold accountable
“No one knows what he was going through,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado said she noticed her daughters being influenced by their father’s religious extremism, but, with them being 16 years old and 17 years old, respectively, she felt they were old enough to make their own decisions and too old to tell otherwise.
Alvarado said her current husband heard her daughters talking about a doomsday event. At one point, she said that Manuel Gil said: “They can follow me to God, or they can burn in hell.”
“It felt like someone was slowly killing my children,” Alvarado said. “My kids would not have chosen this. They were completely brainwashed.”
Almost a year later, Alvarado says she blames Gil and is still angry with him. She says she feels torn apart by the loss of her children, and with no one to hold accountable.
In a phone call to Child Protective Services expressing concern about how her daughters were behaving under the supervision and influence of their father, she says she complained that they were socially isolated, not attending school and had potentially unhealthy eating habits. Alvarado said nothing was done or officially reported by the agency.
She said authorities told her that if Gil was alive, he almost certainly would have been charged with the deaths of his two daughters.