WASHINGTON — Police were investigating the deaths of four girls whose decomposing bodies were found in a woman's apartment in one of the poorest, most violent neighborhoods of the nation's capital.
The bodies of the girls -- the oldest believed to have been 18, the youngest 5 -- had been in the apartment for at least two weeks before deputy U.S. marshals serving an eviction notice next door discovered them Wednesday, authorities said.
A woman who answered the door at the apartment was being questioned, and at least one official wondered why no one had reported the children missing.
''Somebody should have known that some people were not in school,'' said D.C. Council member Marion Barry, the former mayor who now represents the neighborhood, part of a block of virtually identical apartment houses near Bolling Air Force Base.
School officials said the children believed to have been living in the home were not enrolled, though one had attended before withdrawing in 2006 as a fifth-grader.
''It is probably too easy in this system to not track young people from public schools to charter schools to home schooling,'' said Mayor Adrian Fenty, whose administration recently began overseeing the troubled school system.
He said authorities were investigating how the children managed to slip through the cracks.
It was unclear exactly how and when the victims died or whether the woman who answered the door was related to them, police Chief Cathy Lanier said. There were no signs of forced entry into the home, she said.
The condition of the bodies made it difficult to identify them, Fenty said. ''It is going to take scientific tests run by the chief medical examiner's office,'' he said.
Neighbor Larry Jones said a woman and two or three children lived at the small, two-story brick building, but he had not seen them since the summer. The children appeared healthy then, he said.
About one-third of the city's homicides last year occurred in the police district where the bodies were discovered, according to preliminary police statistics.
Mindy Good, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Child and Family Services agency, said the agency received a report about a family at the home in April through the city's child abuse and neglect reporting hot line.
''We made several attempts to make contact with these people. We were unable to have any face-to-face contact with them,'' Good said. ''On the last attempt (in early May), it appeared they were no longer living at the address.''
Investigators later found a new address for the family in Maryland and alerted authorities there of the report on the family, Good said. She would not specify where the family was living.
''This is a sick-making situation,'' she said. ''It's a horrible thing.''
Area resident Rowand Simpkins said her neighbors tend to keep to themselves and that she never saw the woman or children.
''It's really a mystery,'' she said. ''It's a sad situation.''
Associated Press writers Karen Mahabir and Brett Zongker contributed to this report.