Police Investigate North Valley Murder-Suicide

6/29/2008 Merced, CA Now, police are trying to piece together what led to the attack and why the suspect left several children alive.

Investigators say the man killed his step-daughter Sunday morning at a home on Serano near Cone. He also attacked his wife who had kicked him out of the house, but he left seven other children alone.

A happy celebration, a young girl's birthday, turned into a nightmarish event. The family has spent much of Sunday collecting items for the 8 children that were inside this house during the time of this shooting.

Devastated, this family told Action News they were gathering family belongings.

In the trash, an empty cake box. On the fence, police tape. A sign that something tragic happened only hours after a birthday celebration.

"All I heard was a gunshot and a crime scene," said neighbor Markus Schaffner.

Shortly before 3:00am a man entered this house with 8 children inside and shot his wife. Injured, she managed to escape to a neighbor's house.

"She was banging on the door and yelling hysterically," said neighbor Linda Ramirez, "When she was yelling she was yelling that her husband was trying to kill her." She even broke a window.

Merced Police were called and discovered two dead bodies inside the house. One was the man who shot his wife; the other, his 17-year-old step-daughter who just celebrated her birthday.

"She brought me cake last night saying it was her birthday and I said, 'happy birthday, be safe, stay out of trouble.' I wake up this morning and all this stuff is going on," said neighbor Timothy Oliva.

Police are calling this a murder-suicide and claim the man who entered the house was separated from his wife and appears to have a history of domestic abuse. "We have had minor calls to the house. Verbal argument issues. We're looking into if there's others in (his) background as well," said Floyd Higdon with the Merced Police Department.

Neighbors said the family was quiet and can't believe what happened.

"It kinda makes you stop and think…what's gonna happen next?" said Ramirez.

"Probably just stupidity. Domestic abuse. It doesn't belong in the household," said Oliva.

As for the seven young children who were not injured, they are now in Child Protective Services care. The mother has already undergone one surgery at the local hospital. She is listed in critical condition.

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