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Mother, 2 Daughters Killed; Father Arrested

Crime: Man is held without bail in slayings at former girlfriend's Sun Valley home. She had recently left the suspect to start a new life.

January 25, 2002|ANDREW BLANKSTEIN and CLAIRE LUNA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A 27-year-old long-haul truck driver whose girlfriend recently left him drove to her new home in Sun Valley on Wednesday night and fatally stabbed her and their daughters, ages 2 and 6, police said.

Julian Beltran then called 911 from his car and told a dispatcher that "somebody was hurt" at a house in the 7400 block of Craner Avenue. When authorities arrived there minutes after the 11:30 p.m. call, they discovered the bodies of Maria Michelle Barahona, 24; Marissa Beltran, 6; and Natalie Beltran, 2.

"It was so bad when firefighters got there that they backed out and told the police something to the effect of, 'You don't want to go in there,'" said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Jack Richter.

Beltran continued driving to Stanton in Orange County, where he again called police from his car, telling them where to find him. He was distraught, authorities said, and told them, "I have a knife and I am sorry I hurt her."

When Orange County sheriff's deputies approached Beltran at Beach Boulevard and Katella Avenue about 12:30 a.m., he was standing in front of his car, bleeding from cuts on both wrists and waving a knife, police said.

After he ignored repeated orders to drop the knife, deputies fired four beanbags, said Sheriff's Department spokesman John Fleischmann. Beltran, who was hit, dropped the knife and surrendered.

He was treated at a hospital for welts from the bean bags and superficial knife wounds, then turned over to the LAPD, Fleischmann said.

Late Thursday, he was being held without bail at the Van Nuys jail. He could be arraigned as soon as today on the murder charges.

Barahona and Beltran had been together on and off for about eight years and had moved throughout the state with their daughters, authorities said.

He drove a night route between Los Angeles and Kettleman City for California Overnight, a package delivery company based in Phoenix. Brian Erickson, the company's southern regional operations manager, said Beltran had worked there for two years and had been "a great employee."

On Thursday afternoon, Nancy Barahona, 23, Maria's sister, sat in the bedroom of her North Hollywood apartment and looked at photographs of her nieces. She described Maria, 11 months her senior, as her "unofficial twin."

She said her sister was a student at Grant High School in Van Nuys when she met Beltran.

A little more than a year ago, the couple moved to Palmdale. They moved again in the fall to Sun Valley, where they rented a home owned by a co-worker of Barahona's mother. But Beltran moved out in October or November, Nancy Barahona said, and was staying with his sister in Anaheim.

Maria Barahona told her sister last week that Beltran was acting oddly.

"He was calling her 15 times a day and really freaked her out," Nancy Barahona said.

On Sunday, Beltran went to Maria's home and gave her money. He wanted to restart the relationship, but Barahona said she wanted to start a new life without him, her sister said.

Barahona had been looking into jobs at hospitals so she could use her training as a medical secretary, her sister said.

Marissa had started kindergarten last fall at Roscoe Elementary, where her mother occasionally chaperoned field trips. The child loved school, insisting on doing her homework before anything else when she came home each day, Nancy Barahona said.

Two weeks ago, Marissa's family celebrated her sixth birthday. She was excited by her presents, especially a Britney Spears Barbie Doll, her aunt said.

Nancy Barahona said she had a closet full of presents for Natalie, who would have turned 3 on Valentine's Day. She described the small child as shy, and said she called her older sister "Honey."

*

Times staff writers Mai Tran and Nita Lelyveld contributed to this report.

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