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Man sets off fatal blast in elevator

Kills self, woman in Lynn building

State Police officer checked a car for explosive devices outside a Lynn office building where the fatal explosion took place. Authorities said a man used a makeshift explosive to kill the mother of his children. Witnesses said they heard what sounded like a bomb explode in the three-story building on Market Street (EVAN RICHMAN/GLOBE STAFF)

LYNN -- A young father of two used a makeshift explosive device yesterday to kill himself and the children's mother in the elevator of the downtown office building where she worked, authorities and witnesses said.

Witnesses said they heard what sounded like a bomb explode in the three-story building on Market Street. Moments before the explosion, the father tried to pull their 5-year-old son into the elevator with them, said Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett.

"The ugly specter of domestic violence has once again reared its head," Blodgett said in a telephone interview last evening. "It's a horrific crime."

He said the bodies were so badly burned that it took investigators more than five hours to identify them. He identified the father, whose black Honda Civic was parked in front of the building, as Raymond Echavarria, 23, and the mother as Xiomara Robles, 21, both of Lynn.

Blodgett said authorities were investigating whether it was a homemade bomb, such as a can of gasoline, that caused the explosion. He said Robles took out a restraining order against Echavarria on Jan. 8, after police arrested him on charges he kidnapped her at knifepoint, pulled her into his car, and drove her through Lynn and Saugus.

Prosecutors had asked for bail to be set at $7,500, but a judge later released him from Lynn District Court on $1,500 cash bail.

On Jan. 16, Robles, who was not married to or living with Echavarria, decided to rescind the restraining order. "She didn't want to go forward," Blodgett said.

Echavarria, who worked at Avis rental cars at Logan International Airport, was due in court April 17 to face five charges from the Jan. 8 episode, including kidnapping and assault with a dangerous weapon. Robles had obtained a restraining order against him in 2001, Blodgett said.

Lynn police Captain Mark O'Toole said officers found the elevator engulfed in flames when they responded shortly after 2:30 p.m. Two other people were taken to local hospitals for minor injuries caused by the explosion, he said in a statement.

O'Toole said sprinklers went off throughout the building, where about 50 people work. There was some water damage, he said, but the fire did not spread.

Lynn Fire Chief Edward F. Higgins Jr. said the building could reopen today.

Philip Lamonica, a lawyer who rents space in the same office as Robles, a receptionist at Central Square Therapy, said the couple had two children, a 5-year-old boy and a girl born a few months ago.

He said he had bought Robles and her son sub sandwiches for lunch yesterday shortly before she died . She brought her son to work yesterday, because she could not find a baby sitter, he said.

After eating in the office's conference room, Robles took her son for a walk outside, Lamonica said. Then Echavarria drove up to the building, found Robles, and pulled her into the elevator in the lobby, leaving her son alone.

"She was a very nice girl, very pretty, but they had a lot of problems," Lamonica said.

At about 2 p.m., sitting in his second-floor office, he heard screaming coming from the elevator. The other receptionist was with Robles's son and asked Lamonica to come help.

He said he thought the elevator had become stuck, as it has in the past. "You could hear crying and screaming; I thought she was claustrophobic," Lamonica said. "I was pressing buttons, trying to get the elevator down."

He went to the lobby and then to the second floor, trying to open the elevator, he said. Others in the building called the Fire Department. Then he heard the explosion.

"It sounded like a bomb," he said. "I went downstairs, and you could see the elevator open. There were no more screams."

The couple's son was taken to Salem Hospital, where he was held overnight for observation, Blodgett said.

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com; Kathy McCabe at kmccabe@globe.com.

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