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January 28, 2009

Man Kills His Wife and 5 Children

By REBECCA CATHCART and RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD

LOS ANGELES — A man shot and killed his wife and five young children before taking his own life Tuesday, apparently out of despair after the couple lost their jobs at a hospital, the police and city officials said.

Officers responding to 911 calls placed by the man, Ervin A. Lupoe, and by a television station to which Mr. Lupoe had sent a fax around 8:30 a.m., found seven bodies in a house in Wilmington, a working-class neighborhood near the Port of Los Angeles.

A police spokesman said the bodies were identified as Mr. Lupoe; his wife, Ana; their 8-year-old daughter and two sets of twins (5-year-old girls and 2-year-old boys).

Mr. Lupoe had telephoned and sent a fax to KABC-TV that indicated “he was despondent over a job situation and he saw no reasonable way out,” said Lt. John Romero, a police spokesman.

The two-page, typewritten letter made clear he was going to kill his family and himself. The station quickly called 911 to report the letter and then posted it on the station Web site after the bodies were discovered.

The letter said Mr. Lupoe and his wife had worked as medical technicians at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in West Los Angeles, but recently lost their jobs after a dispute with an administrator.

The administrator, it said, had asked them on an unspecified day why they had come to work, and then added, “You should have blown your brains out.”

Two days after the confrontation, the letter said, the Lupoes lost their jobs and began planning their deaths and those of their children.

“Why leave the children to a stranger?” Mr. Lupoe said his wife had asked. “So, here we are,” he wrote.

Kaiser Permanente officials issued a statement confirming the couple had worked at their hospital in West Los Angeles but would not say when they had lost their jobs or provide other details. “We are deeply saddened to hear of the deaths of the Lupoe family,” the statement said.

Although the police are treating the case as a murder-suicide, Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner said the police were still sorting through a discrepancy.

Contrary to his fax and reported call to the television station, the man told a 911 operator he had arrived home and found his family dead, Deputy Chief Garner said. But investigators found a revolver next to Mr. Lupoe’s body, the only weapon in the home, he said.

The police said they found the bodies of the three daughters next to their father in a front bedroom upstairs. The boys were with their mother in a back bedroom on the same floor.

“A man who recently lost his job allowed the despair to put him over the edge,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who held a news conference outside the house. “Unfortunately, this has been an all-too-common story in the last few months. But that does not and should not lead people to resort to desperate measures.”

A man killed his ex-wife, her parents and friends at a Christmas party in West Covina last month after losing his job. In October, a 45-year-old father of three shot and killed his wife and children in their Porter Ranch home after describing financial stress in a suicide note.

Mayor Villaraigosa urged Los Angeles residents experiencing financial stress to talk to friends and neighbors and seek counseling “to get back on their feet and keep their families afloat.”

Cecilia Yvar, 68, whose grandson often played with the Lupoes’ 5-year-old twins, said the family moved to the neighborhood four years ago. The Lupoes added a second story to their home last year, Ms. Yvar said, and landscaping to their backyard.

“Maybe too much money, too much stress,” she said while wiping away tears.

Ms. Yvar said the couple kept to themselves, but greeted their neighbors warmly each day. On Sunday, she said, they appeared unhappy as they walked together outside.

Yolanda and Oscar Lopez, who have lived in the area three months, said they had seen the Lupoes in the neighborhood.

“There’s so much pressure from the economy and people out of work and stuff,” Mr. Lopez, 28, said. “But adults, they know there are other options. You don’t have to do this.”