GREEN BAY, WI — A sexual act that "just went wrong" killed Jennifer Gilbert, and her despondent husband may have thought about calling for help before killing his two young children and then himself, the family said Friday.

The tragedy has focused attention on a rare behavior, known as erotic suffocation or strangulation, as a way to enhance sex.

For the family, there was relief that the couple was engaged in a sex act gone horribly wrong.

Tami Gerondale, a cousin of Jennifer Gilbert's, said that after she died, her husband, Mike, "touched the phone several times" but nobody has come forward and said they talked to him.

"It took him awhile to decide what he was going to do. For at least six hours he contemplated different ways. We will always wonder why he chose to do what he did," she said.

The four family members, Jennifer, 25, Mike, 27, their 1-year-old daughter, Evangeline, and 2-month-old son, Ivan, were found dead by a relative Tuesday. They had been asphyxiated.

There will be a single funeral for the family at St. Benedict's Catholic Church in Suamico where the couple was married 2 years ago, Gerondale said.

For the family, there was some relief in learning the couple was engaged in a sexual act that went horribly wrong and the tragedy unfolded from there, she said.

"The way she died, she was not threatened," Gerondale said. "It was a loving act on her part and Mike's part. It was a sexual act that just went wrong."

Why Michael, after accidentally killing his wife, would engage in more death remains a mystery.

She declined to be more specific, citing respect for the couple's privacy.

Police have only said Jennifer Gilbert apparently allowed Michael to asphyxiate her by putting something around her neck but he did not mean to kill her.

Police continued Friday to refuse to release any more details, other than saying investigators had recovered what they believe was used to strangle Jennifer Gilbert.

There is a form of sexual play called asphyxiophilia, in which one partner chokes the other during sex. It's designed to deprive the brain of oxygen, resulting in a form of giddiness and euphoria — similar to alcohol or drug intoxication — as a way to enhance orgasm, experts say.

"There is no evidence it does. The only possibility is the feeling of terror makes you feel more excited," said Dr. Janet Hyde, a professor of psychology with a speciality in human sexuality at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Studies and research indicate perhaps 300 to 500 people die each year from the behavior, Hyde said.

"People need to be warned it is dangerous. We have a great case to prove it," she said.

But why Michael Gilbert, after accidentally killing his wife, would engage in more death instead of contacting authorities or other relatives remained a mystery.


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