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Woman, Fearing Loss of Custody, Kills Her Daughter, Then Herself


A woman who feared that her estranged husband would gain custody of their 3-year-old daughter shot and killed the girl and then herself Wednesday as they rode in a friend's camper in Panorama City, Los Angeles police said.

Josephina Rios, 29, died about 10:15 p.m., four hours after she fired a single round into the head of her daughter, Samantha, and then shot herself in the head, Sgt. Joe Braza said.

Investigators found a one-page note apparently written by Rios saying she was despondent over the prospect of her husband gaining custody of their daughter.

Detective Mike Houchen said Rios feared that her husband, Antonio Rios, would disappear with the child. The couple, who lived in Anaheim, had been separated for about a year and were going through a divorce. "The mother left a suicide note indicating this was best for the child and herself," Houchen said.

Lt. Richard Iddings said the handwritten note also asked for forgiveness from God and Rios' family.

At the time of the shooting, Rios and her daughter were riding in the back of a camper driven by Pasquale Buzzelli. Buzzelli told police that he was driving them to his Panorama City home from East Los Angeles, where Rios had been staying with members of her family.

Rios and her daughter elected to ride in the back of the camper so they could sleep before a Halloween party at a local park, Iddings said.

As he passed Branford Park, Buzzelli said he heard two sharp sounds, seconds apart. He continued driving the few miles to his home, however, because he thought the noises were caused by an auto backfiring or Halloween revelers.

When he arrived home, Buzzelli unlocked the rear door of the camper and turned on the light to find Rios and her daughter wounded. Rios apparently used a handgun that was kept in one of the camper's cabinets that Buzzelli had shown her how to use the week before, Iddings said.

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