A Touch of Murder in Suburbia

Our neighborhood – the street that we live on – is in the news today because of a double murder last night. We didn’t know the victims personally, although we might have seen them now and again. We knew the house, as we walked by it frequently – like nearly every day. We definitely had talked casually to some of their close neighbors; this is the kind of neighborhood and street we live on. People know each other – and their dogs – by sight, wave to each other’s cars, take note of the condition of the yards … that kind of casual suburban thing.

The house where the murders happened is on one of the main cross-streets in the suburb where we live, about three blocks uphill from our house. At about a quarter to five last night, as I was starting to put dinner together, we heard a siren in the street just outside, a siren which cut off very abruptly. Blondie cares for an elderly and disabled neighbor who lives a little way up the road, and our first thought was for her, as she has had to have the ambulance come for her a couple of times. So Blondie ran outside, to see what was going on – sirens in the neighborhood are rare enough that running outside to see what is going on is a perfectly understandable reaction. She did not return immediately, and after a few minutes, I went outside as well – to find a good many of my neighbors standing in their driveways, looking up the street. It was just getting dark, and there looked to be a perfect convention of police cars clustered in the road at the top of the hill, and more screaming past at every moment.
“There’s been a shooting,” my next-door neighbor reported. “And the man who did it ran down the street. He went right past … D____ (the next neighbor over) was just leaving for work in his truck, and he tried to get D_____ to give him a ride! He went that way!”

Another close neighbor had been running out her trash can when the shooter ran by – when a police car screeched around the corner, practically on two wheels, she flagged the patrol car down and gasped out a description, which turned out to be mostly although not completely accurate. It seemed that the shooter was on the loose and still in the neighborhood – all this as people were coming home from work. More lights and sirens, baffled neighbors just returning home, pulling over to ask us what was going on, as police cars burned rubber going around corners. The road was blocked – and the police were only letting residents in. A teenage girl came down the hill walking home from the high school, exclaiming about the shooting; Blondie told her to wait – she would get her own car and drive the girl home. When she got back, she went to check on another neighbor, diagonally across the street. Meanwhile, helicopters rotated overhead – flashing red and green and white lights. The smallest and speediest was a police helicopter; the others, said our next-door neighbor, were from the television stations. It was already on the news, that there had been a shooting; at first it was that some kind of Fatal Attraction thing; a jealous boyfriend had killed his girls’ father. Then it seemed there were two victims, and it wasn’t a jealousy thing at all. Another van went past – the medical examiner, or maybe the evidence lab van. Our immediate neighbors were all accounted for, and all right. We were not much worried about the prospect of a single armed man on foot – not with what seemed like every patrol car on day-watch screaming up and down the street, and anyway, if you did a shake-out of every house in the neighborhood, you’d likely find enough small and medium arms to fit out a small European country’s military. Our neighbor laughed, at that – and told us what she had sorted out from her mother-in-law’s personal armory, including a machete tucked between the mattress and box-spring of the master-bedroom bedstead.

It eventually calmed down after about forty minutes – the news helicopters vanished, and there weren’t as many police cars, although there were still flashing lights at the top of the hill. The shooter was reported to have been captured in a nearby strip-mall; the parking lot of the HEB grocery store which we frequent, about a mile away. It turns out that he was a disgruntled former employee or perhaps business associate; the two people murdered were a husband and wife. They had only lived here for about a year. Their 20-year old daughter jumped from an upper floor bedroom window to escape. I don’t think there was anyone in the house today, although there were a couple of news reporters around doing follow-up stories this afternoon. (Local news story here.)
We told them – this is not a neighborhood where this kind of thing happens routinely and without comment.
(View of our street – it all happened at a house at the top of the hill.)

15 thoughts on “A Touch of Murder in Suburbia”

  1. I came home to my apartment one Halloween after work to find police tape around the entrance. The couple across the hall had had a fight and the woman had killed the man with a poker, then tried to kill herself with a knife. That was on a Saturday, the bodies were discovered the following Monday when the fellow didn’t show up to work. The woman was alive but unconscious, I don’t know if she ever really recovered. I do remember the blood soaked mattress in the dumpster when the apartment got cleaned up.

  2. when we walked by this morning there was no trace of what went on…the police tape was all cleaned up the perps rental car had been towed…the SAPD are a very tidy lot.

  3. When I was a kid, there was a labor union official who lived a block from my elementary school. One night he was shot in a gangland style shooting. The next morning, walking to school, we spent a lot of time looking for clues. Alas to no avail. Exciting, though.

  4. There have been 2-3 murders round my neighborhood that I know of. Some years ago my parents, who live in an “upscale” neighborhood – learned that a neighbor who lived down the street, was murdered by someone waiting in his garage for him to come home from work. He was an attorney – disgruntled defendant?

    Then someone else – bail bondsman – was shot right through the “security” wrought iron door – it was eerie because I walked the dog past there every day – you could see the bullet hole in the “security” door.

    It’s an ugly world out there…

  5. One Halloween, my husband put our toddler in her car seat (I was still at work & we were going to a party). The woman across the street rushed up & asked to use the phone; when he let her in, he heard her say that there had been a murder. By the time my husband had our daughter out of her car seat squad cars had pulled up. The killer (a lab guy on campus) got off with a light sentence – but then probably the brightest thing isn’t bringing your lover home to tell your husband the baby you are carrying isn’t his – at least when he also has a shot gun close. Bleak lives.

  6. When I used to go to San Diego (early 80s) I loved staying at this inexpensive motel right on the beach – The Newport Motel – at Ocean Beach. It looks like it has been torn down and a nice new one – the Ocean Beach Hotel – put in its place. (isn’t the internet great?) Anyway it was run by this nice couple – a 50s era motel – you’d let the ocean breeze come in your window.

    Later on I leaned that motorcycle gangs called Ocean Beach home. One afternoon I am walking across the street and see a guy dying from a knife fight in the parking lot.

    I wonder how many murders involved had alcohol? So many dumb ways to die ….I wish I could quote the words – I think they came from a link here – but it was from a blog writer commenting on the Zimmerman case in FL. He said it better but to paraphrase he said that avoid getting into potentially dangerous situations. No matter how tough you think you are, defending yourself from an angry guy with a pistol or knife is an uphill battle. And usually those fights involve drunken arguments at parties, bars…then some murders involve long-simmering hatreds.

    Just rambling tonight but I sensed that the good Sgt was rightfully upset and shocked at this in her neighborhood.

  7. We once rented a house from a guy who (probably) (and unknown to us at the time) killed his wife in it. The prosecutor never had enough evidence to bring a case against him, but the life insurance company prevailed in a civil suit preventing him from collecting her life insurance proceeds. (Shudder…) We found out about it from the next-door neighbors after we’d been there most of a year.

  8. Sad stories. Surely they reflect mainly on the people involved rather than on where those people happened to be living.

    There’s an old website that’s still up, that has multiple-choice tests to help you estimate your risk of being victimized. The gist of it is that a stable, law abiding person who isn’t a substance abuser or involved in multiple adulterous love affairs is extremely unlikely to be murdered.

  9. I’m not worried about murder this week. My daughter’s housemate got a call (in person) from her boyfriend at 2 AM Tuesday morning to tell her that her mother had died in her sleep. Her brother had called him to break the news. Early 50s. Tuesday later morning, my vet who I was visiting with after he took out Winston’s (basset hound) stitches Friday, laid down for a nap in the office after doing another surgery and never woke up. Sixty years old. My sister called me that day to tell me a childhood friend had died. All 15 to 20 years younger than my decrepit self. The girl’s mother had had a fainting spell a month ago and was worked up with no findings. The vet was healthy.

    Even behaving yourself isn’t safe.

  10. Michael – the older I have become the more I have realized that life is so transitory – here today – gone tomorrow –

    In our daily routines we tend to forget that

    …and of the deaths you have mentioned there are far worse ways to go.

    But I mentioned this to a friend yesterday – you know you are getting old when those you ave known die – from illness or “natural causes”.

    My friend grew up in Los Angeles and was surprised to learn – a girl he had wanted in high school – who turned him down – achieved minor fame in the movies – died from leukemia – and my friend isn’t even 60. I think the girl told him at the time, “You aren’t going anywhere – I am”…

  11. Interesting web site you linked to Jonathan – I’ll have to look at it tomorrow. There’s no guarantees anyone will live tomorrow but how you behave – and react – certainly affects your odds.

    An incident that stays in my mind – because I used to commute there regularly for 7 years – involved some road rage.

    A cuts B off – fingers exchanged, A gets on off ramp – B follows him – gets out (the light was red) – starts pummeling A, whereupon A gets a pistol from under the seat and shoots B.

    A had never been in trouble before – while out on bail meeting with his lawyer they go to the accident scene – and A pulls another gun out and kills himself, leaving a wife and children.

    All over road rage.

  12. LOL, I’ve never really been that concerned with this kind of stuff. SH** happens.

    A fatalistic view, I grant, but it works.

    In 1990 I worked about two blocks from my apartment. Over the preceding 3-4 days two girls were murdered, then another, all looking fairly similar (short brunettes) — presumably the work of a serial killer. The whole mid-small town (city pop ca. 100k, county/metro area 250k) was aghast. Since it’s a college town, a lot of people “abandoned ship”

    I came walking home from work on Monday at about 5pm, to find police tape at the entry to the parking lot. Yes, the third (and, as it turned out, final) set of murders had occurred there.

    While I could see those “matching the description” getting freaked, and anyone who specifically felt protective (i.e., fathers, brothers, boyfriends, etc.) of them going on high alert, I wasn’t concerned for my own safety in the least — I was clearly not the target. I certainly watch for odd shadows that would reveal someone hiding behind a tree when I walk to my apartment from the lot, but other than that don’t really feel threatened. Helps to be an above-average sized guy, too. Not huge, but I don’t look like easy meat, either.

    P.S., on Jonathan’s website I qualify as a -11 on the “risk” scale for the general test. Criminals are in more danger from me.

  13. Bill:

    My own criteria for age is simple:

    If the playmate of the month was born after you graduated high school, you’re old.

    If the mother of the playmate of the month was born after you graduated high school, you’re really old.


  14. If the mother of the playmate of the month was born after you graduated high school

    And she looks hot, then you are old ;)

  15. Just as an added note – the murderer has been charged; and was he ever the upright good citizen; turns out he was a registered sex offender, had been convicted of theft previously, and had been fired last month by the little business owned by the couple who were killed. There was a little notice taped to the garage door today, regarding the viewing and last rites. It listed a lot of family members – brothers and sisters and all, which means that the daughter has kin to go to. She climbed out an upstairs window to escape, and was so hysterical that she was taken away in an ambulance Wednesday night.

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