Jobless father kills children

Man shoots wife and young family in apparent suicide pact after both are sacked from hospital jobs

At half-past-eight in the morning, Ervin Lupoe faxed a suicide note to his local television station, complaining that the "horrendous ordeal" of losing his job at a hospital had driven him to despair. Then came the chilling promise that his wife and five young children would not fall into "someone else's hands".

Thirty minutes later, police broke into his home in a seaside suburb of Los Angeles and found all seven members of the family, including two sets of twins, dead. All had been shot in the head, some several times, and officers could still smell gunshot residue in the air.

Mr Lupoe's wife, Ana, was discovered in an upstairs room next to the bodies of their two-year-old twins, Benjamin and Christian. Brittney, eight, and five-year-old twins Jaszmin and Jassely were found with their father in another bedroom at the house in Wilmington.

Earlier, a distraught Mr Lupoe, 40, had sent a rambling fax to KABC-TV, explaining that both he and his wife had been sacked from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Centre after being accused of misconduct. He claimed his wife, also 40, asked him to carry out the killings to provide an escape for the entire family. "After a horrendous ordeal, my wife felt it better to end our lives and why leave our children in someone else's hands," he wrote.

The letter recounted how the couple were apparently dismissed following an investigation into allegations that they fraudulently claimed childcare benefits from their employer. Mr Lupoe, an X-ray technician, claimed to have been repeatedly mistreated by his superiors during the investigation. He recalled that just before Christmas: "I was told by my administrator that, 'You should not even had [sic] bothered to come to work today ... you should have blown your brains out'."

The couple complained, with the support of their union, to the hospital's personnel department and were offered an apology, but soon afterwards they lost their jobs, Mr Lupoe added. His letter concluded with a handwritten addition, apparently written at the last minute before the fax was sent, which reads: "Oh Lord my God, is there no hope for a widow's son?"

Last night, the hospital said it was "deeply saddened" to hear of the incident but refused to comment on the allegations in Mr Lupoe's letter. His former colleagues were shocked, describing the couple as hard workers who were devoted to their children. Mr Lupoe's grandmother Josephine, 83, wept as she told reporters: "Every time I called him he was at work. He worked all the time."

Police said there was little in Mr Lupoe's history to suggest he might be prone to violence, apart from an incident in 1994 when he was charged with carrying a hidden gun. The charge was either dismissed or not proceeded with, court documents show. His family crisis apparently began to snowball two weeks ago, soon after the dismissals were finalised, when the couple withdrew their three daughters from Crescent Heights Elementary School, saying they were moving to Kansas.

Although detectives stressed that Mr and Mrs Lupoe were not laid off because of the economic downturn, the killings have prompted much soul-searching in Wilmington, a largely Hispanic community which has been ravaged by the collapse of trade at the nearby Port of Los Angeles.

Several recent mass murders in California were carried out by men who had just lost their jobs. On Christmas Eve, a man dressed as Father Christmas killed his ex-wife and eight relatives at a house party in Covina. In October, a jobless financial manager with extreme money worries shot and killed his wife, three children, mother-in-law and himself in their home at Porter Ranch, in the San Fernando Valley.

Speaking outside Mr Lupoe's house, the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, said: "A man who recently lost his job allowed the despair to put him over the edge. 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 cry for help: Extracts from Mr Lupoe's fax

It seemed our fate with thecompany had been decided on Dec 22nd, yet on the 23rd I was told by my administrator that, "You should not even had bothered to come to work today you should have blown your brains out."

... In addition it seems Kiaser [sic] Permanente wants us to kill ourselves and take our family with us. Theydid 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 eight years with no place to go. So here we are.

... After a horrendous ordeal my wife felt it better to end our lives and why leave our children in someone else's hands.