The woman who was found slain – along with two of her children – late Saturday night inside her mobile home in Garland was trying to escape an abusive relationship, according to a family member.

Maine State Police allege that Christina Ann Sargent, 36, and her children Destiny Sargent, 8, and Duwayne Coke, 10, were killed by her live-in boyfriend.

Keith Coleman, 27, of 12 Paul Road in Garland, was arrested Sunday night and charged with three counts of murder, said state police spokesman Stephen McCausland.

The children attended the Ridge View Community School in Dexter, where they were enrolled in the second and fourth grades. The district’s superintendent did not return calls Sunday night. Garland is a Penobscot County town of about 1,200 located northwest of Bangor.

Coleman, who has a distinctive star tattoo on the left side of his neck, was taken into custody for questioning Sunday afternoon after police, acting on a tip, located him at an apartment complex on School Street in Bucksport, McCausland said. He was transported to the state police barracks in Bangor and charged just before 9 p.m.

Coleman will be held at the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor pending his first court appearance Monday or Tuesday. His minivan was seized by police.

According to the Maine State Bureau of Identification, Coleman has a criminal record in Maine. He was arrested in July 2010 by the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office on a misdemeanor charge of cultivating marijuana and was later found guilty. His sentence included a fine of $400.

Although Coleman does not have a record of domestic violence in Maine, Karen Kane of Ellsworth, a cousin of the slain woman, said Sargent told her that he had threatened Sargent. Kane said Sargent was in the process of trying to leave Coleman because he had become increasingly violent.

“He (Coleman) has a history of violence. He has made threats to her before,” Kane said in a telephone interview Sunday night. “She didn’t want to be with him anymore.”

Kane said the couple had been living together in Garland since 2012.

“She was a loving mom. She’d do anything for anyone. She was very generous,” Kane said.

Sargent, who was employed as a private-duty nurse, lived in the mobile home with Coleman, her two children and another woman, Andra Medina. Medina was working Saturday. When she tried to call Sargent and no one answered the home telephone, Medina became concerned, Kane said.

Medina’s daughter, Rebecca Lynn Ray, went to the home with Kane’s boyfriend, Scott Pagliaroli, and Sargent’s oldest son, Dominic Sargent, 20, according to Kane.

She said they found Sargent in her bedroom. Her hands had been tied together, a towel had been placed over her face, and it appeared she had been strangled or suffocated. Destiny was in her bedroom.

They notified police, who later found the boy, Duwayne, in his bed. His body had been wrapped in sheets and blankets, Kane said.

Kane, who is employed as a certified nursing assistant, said she was told by the witnesses that it appeared all three victims had been suffocated or strangled to death. Ray is also a CNA.

Asked Sunday night how the victims were killed, McCausland said he would have to wait until the autopsies are completed before he could comment. The bodies were transported Sunday to the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Augusta, where autopsies will be conducted Monday.

“Detectives have not said how they think the family was killed and will await the medical examiner’s autopsy results,” McCausland said in a press release.

The mobile home remained under police guard Sunday night. Detectives plan to return to the home Monday.

Ray, who is a roommate of Kane, was not available for comment Sunday night, but she established a campaign on the GoFundMe website as a means of raising funds to pay for the family’s funeral expenses.

Kane said several relatives live in Minnesota and are on their way to Maine to attend the funeral.

Sargent was a graduate of Sumner Memorial High School in the Hancock County town of Sullivan, Kane said. As a private duty nurse, she was hired by families to care for sick loved ones.