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Fatal Crash Triggers Criticism of Chases : Reporter Discovers Her Children Among Victims

June 03, 1992|KATHY McDONALD and PATRICK J. McDONNELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

TEMECULA — As reporter Gloria Murillo interviewed police about the Border Patrol chase that ended on Tuesday with a crash that killed five, she had no way of knowing the identities of two bodies lying under tarpaulins about 100 yards away.

They were her children.

The fatal accident occurred outside Temecula Valley High School, where Murillo's daughter and namesake Gloria, and son Jose, known as Tommy, were students. The two teen-agers had been walking to school when a car being chased by Border Patrol agents slammed into another vehicle and then jumped over the curb.

The proximity of the crash to her children's school had nagged at Murillo as she raced to the scene with two colleagues from the Spanish-language shopper, El Remate. But she went right to work upon arrival outside the school, collecting information from witnesses and officials.

When she was done, she thought she had better collect her children, too. The students she saw were all obviously upset.

When Murillo told a coroner's official at a barricade that she was switching from a reporter's role to a parent's and gave him the names, his response was less than reassuring. He told her he thought they may have been involved.

Professional detachment dissolved into horror-stricken grief. Her 17-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son were gone. "She's in a state of shock," said Elia Esparza, her cousin and publisher of El Remate. "She kept fainting on us."

Murillo, a 36-year-old single mother, moved with her four children from Anaheim to Temecula a few months ago, Esparza said, in search of escape from urban pressures. "She was trying to give her family a better life," Esparza said. "It's just incredible that something like this could happen."

Three others were killed in the car cut in half by the fleeing Chevy Suburban. They were John Davis, 46, of Temecula; his son, Todd, 17, and Todd's friend, Monisa Emilio, 14. Davis was dropping the teen-agers at school.

Davis was the manager of a First Interstate Bank branch in Hemet. He had worked for a Wells Fargo bank in that area and his wife, Linda, works at one of the Temecula branches.

Their son, Todd, a Temecula Valley High School senior, had worked part-time at another Wells Fargo branch in Temecula, said Larry Jacobson, a friend of the family.

Jacobson said Todd was an avid surfer and was going to graduate from the high school this month.

Davis, who would have turned 47 this month, had been headed to a charity meeting after taking his son to school, said Jacobson, manager of First Interstate Bank's Temecula branch.

Davis, an avid golfer, had turned his love of the game into a way to help abused children by promoting a 100-hole marathon golf tournament to benefit Rancho Damacitas, a Temecula nonprofit home for abused children.

Jacobson said he had been expecting to see Davis at the Rancho Damacitas meeting Tuesday morning.

"The only positive thing I can even think of is that John's car blocked that guy from hitting more children in that crosswalk," Jacobson said.

"John was a good guy," Jacobson said. "There's so many kids here who need help."

Last weekend, Jacobson added, Davis had been helping a family friend whose husband had been killed in a car accident. She wanted to move to Temecula to be closer to her son, and "John was showing her the area."

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