By Daniel Lovering
CAMBRIDGE, Mass (Reuters) - A New Hampshire man was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison on Friday for bludgeoning his wife to death with a flashlight after coming home to find she had strangled their two children, killing one of them, a prosecutor said.
Christopher Smeltzer had pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of his wife, Mara Pappalardo, on November 7, 2010, said New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young.
Smeltzer had returned to the family's house in Auburn, New Hampshire to discover his wife had killed their 4-year-old son Mason and tried to kill their daughter Mercey, who was 7 years old at the time, Young said.
He later took medication in an attempt to kill himself, according to Smeltzer's statements, which were corroborated by toxicology tests, Young said. Officials were alerted around noon the next day, when Smeltzer called 911.
Smelzter was found to have cocaine in his system, she said, and others had testified he had used cocaine or crack cocaine the night before.
Pappalardo suffered from mental health problems, including paranoia and an obsession with death, and her condition had been deteriorating at the time of her death, Young said.
The surviving child, Mercey, said in a recording played in court that it was her father who tried to strangle her, but Young said "her story has sort of changed depending on when she was telling it and who she was telling it to."
Attorneys for Smeltzer did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)