LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man fatally shot his wife, five young children and himself Tuesday after he faxed a note to a TV station claiming the couple had just been fired from their hospital jobs and together planned the killings as an escape for the whole family.
"Why leave our children in someone else's hands," Ervin Lupoe wrote in a letter posted late Tuesday on the KABC-TV Web site.
The station called police after receiving the fax, and a police dispatch center also received a call from a man who stated, "I just returned home and my whole family's been shot."
Officers rushed to the home in Wilmington, a small community between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, about 8:30 a.m., apparently within minutes of the killings. Officers could still smell the gunshot residue in the air.
Although the fax asserted that Ana Lupoe planning the killings of the whole family, police Lt. John Romero said Ervin Lupoe was the suspect. A revolver was found next to his body.
Ana Lupoe's body was found in an upstairs bedroom with the bodies of the couple's twin 2-year-old boys. The bodies of an 8-year-old girl and twin 5-year-old girls were found alongside Ervin Lupoe's in another bedroom.
All were shot in the head, coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter said.
It was the fifth mass death of a Southern California family by murder or suicide in a year. Police urged those facing tough economic times to get help rather than resort to violence.
"Today our worst fear was realized," said Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner. "It's just not a solution. There's just so many ways you find alternatives to doing something so horrific and drastic as this."
Ervin Lupoe removed three of the children from school about a week and a half ago, saying the family was moving to Kansas, the principal told KCAL-TV. Crescent Heights Elementary School Principal Cherise Pounders-Caver said nothing seemed to be troubling Lupoe at that time; she did not ask why the family was moving.
Kaiser Permanente Medical Center West Los Angeles released a statement confirming both Lupoe and his wife had worked there; both were medical technicians.
"We are deeply saddened to hear of the deaths of the Lupoe family," it said in a statement.
In his letter, Ervin Lupoe claimed he and his wife both had been fired and that she suggested they kill themselves and their children, too. Police described the fax but did not release details.
The letter indicated that Lupoe and his wife had been under investigation for misrepresenting their employment to an outside agency in order to obtain childcare. He claimed that an administrator told the couple on Dec. 23: "You should not even had bothered to come to work today you should have blown your brains out."
The couple complained to the human resources department and eventually were offered an apology but two days later the Lupoes were fired, according to the letter.
"They did nothing to the manager who stated such and did not attempt to assist us in the matter, knowing we have no job and five children under 8 years with no place to go. So here we are," the note said.
At the bottom of the note, Lupoe wrote, "Oh lord, my God, is there no hope for a widow's son?"
The Kaiser Permanente statement made no comment on the claims in Lupoe's fax.
"It looks like they might have had grounds for his termination … it wasn't that he was laid off as a result of the economic situation," police Capt. Billy Hayes said.
Lupoe's fax identified his children as Brittney, 8; 5-year-old twins Jaszmin and Jassely; and twins Benjamin and Christian, ages 2 years and 4 months.
Winter said the children were ages 2 to 8 but his agency would not release the names. He said that although the father's family had been notified, relatives of the rest of the family had not been located.
The two-story home, much larger than its one-story neighbors, sits in front of a railroad track in Wilmington, a small community about 18 miles south of downtown. A children's playset stood in the backyard.
On his Facebook page, Lupoe posted photographs of a daughter at karate class, and of a fancy tub and wash basins in an apparently remodeled bathroom.
Retired truck driver Jaime Solache, who lives a few doors down, said many of these newer, larger homes in the neighborhood had gone into foreclosure. The Lupoe house, which has a sign hanging above the driveway reading "The Lupoe's Pad," is about 6 years old, Solache said.
News of the killings sent shivers through the community, and several neighbors came to the yellow police tape to watch a steady procession of officials enter and leave the home.
"This area right here is quiet, calm," said Armando Chacon, who lives one block north. "People like to sit out at weekends and barbecue. Other than this, no problems at all."
In 1994, Lupoe was charged with carrying a concealed firearm but it was either dismissed or not prosecuted, court documents show.
Lupoe got a state license to work as a security guard in 1989 and a permit to carry a gun as a security guard in 1993 but both expired in 2007, said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the state Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.
Bob Pierce, a Long Beach attorney who represented the Lupoes in an auto accident, said the case did not involve any serious injuries and the family was expected to receive "well below $10,000," he said.
Lupoe called Monday to find out when the money might be coming, Pierce said. Pierce told him that it might be another week or two "and he said 'no problem.'"
The region has been shook by several recent mass murders.
On Dec. 24, a man dressed up as Santa Claus invaded a Christmas Eve party and killed his ex-wife and eight of her relatives. The man later killed himself.
In October, an unemployed financial manager despairing over extreme money problems shot and killed his wife, three children, mother-in-law and himself in their home in the Porter Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley.
In June, five members of a Turkish-American family, clad in black, were found dead in an upscale home in San Clemente. Investigators say it was apparently a suicide pact but the reason is a mystery.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.