OXNARD — A woman shot and killed her estranged husband and his girlfriend outside the man's El Rio house Wednesday, then turned the gun on herself as a victim's 6-year-old grandson looked on, authorities said.
Tony Sanchez II, 54, a popular merchant who operated a local Mobil gas station, was found dead outside his family's Will Avenue home in this tightly knit working-class neighborhood just north of Oxnard. Nearby was the body of Marisela Paniagua, 49, of Oxnard, authorities said.
The shooter was identified as Sanchez's 44-year-old wife, Victoria Sanchez, who lived in El Paso but was staying with relatives in Oxnard, authorities said. Her body was found on the driveway, near the other two bodies.
The shooting, which occurred shortly before noon, was a domestic dispute, Ventura County Sheriff's Department spokesman Eric Nishimoto said. Another law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called the shooting a "crime of passion."
Paniagua's nephew, Robert Gonzalez, said Victoria Sanchez was jealous because her soon-to-be ex-husband was in love with Paniagua. Gonzalez said his aunt had told him the estranged wife had been harassing Tony Sanchez in recent months.
Sanchez had filed for divorce in November after nearly 22 years of marriage, according to court records. The divorce was not yet final.
"My aunt was very happy with her new fiance," Gonzalez said. "His ex-wife couldn't get over it."
The murder-suicide occurred in plain view of neighbors, including several children, Nishimoto said. Sounds of gunfire from the semiautomatic pistol caught the attention of one neighborhood teen who had stepped outside his front door as Paniagua's grandson ran to him and threw his arms around his leg, clinging for safety.
The grandson was described as "very distraught" at what he had seen, but he was not injured, authorities said. Because so many residents were at home when the shooting occurred, police spent hours interviewing witnesses.
Mary Lopez, who lives directly across from the Sanchez house, said she and her four granddaughters were outside in the yard filling a wading pool when the shooting occurred.
One of the granddaughters said she saw a woman pull up to the driveway in a white van, step out and fire the shots. "I heard [Paniagua] say, 'Help me!' She was screaming," the girl said.
According to Texas authorities, the white van with Texas plates that was driven by Victoria Sanchez to the shooting scene was purchased by her husband in 1994, when they lived together in El Paso.
Tony and Victoria Sanchez and their two sons lived in a well-maintained neighborhood in Texas, where rows of manicured lawns and swimming pools surround well-kept single-family homes.
According to Texas neighbors interviewed Wednesday, Tony Sanchez left his wife around 1996, about the time the couple's two sons moved out of the house.
After Tony Sanchez left, his wife remained in the house alone until September, according to one neighbor who asked not to be identified.
Several neighbors in Texas said the house had been vacant for months and that a for-sale sign had been posted for a while but was recently removed by family members who apparently still own the house.
"The last time I saw her [Victoria Sanchez] personally was about eight months ago when an ambulance and a cop car pulled up," said Troy Jackson, a neighbor. "She was apparently going through a bout of depression and that brought everybody out to make sure everything was safe."
The home's landscaping is in disrepair and a Volvo sedan remains parked in front, Jackson said Wednesday night.
Court and property records indicate Tony Sanchez is survived by his mother, Frances, who some neighbors in California said was inside the home during the shooting, a brother, Richard, and an adult son.
Relatives and friends of the victims flocked to the home after the shooting, but declined to be interviewed. Msgr. Peter Nugent, Sanchez's priest, also was called to the home to pray with the family.
Margaret Luna, the interim principal at nearby Rio del Valle Middle School, canvassed the neighborhood with other administrators, urging children to stay away from the crime scene.
At Sanchez Mobil on Rose Avenue, a gas station attendant who gave his name only as Jesse said Sanchez took over the gas station after his father died.
Sanchez frequently donated to charitable causes and "helped a lot of the community," the attendant said. "He'll be mourned by a lot of people."
Staff writer Tracy Wilson and Times Community News reporter Holly Wolcott contributed to this report.