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Women Had Suicide Pact, Officials in Big Sur Say

Letters in the resort room where the Long Beach pair were found last week indicate their plans, Monterey County authorities say.

October 14, 2003|Joel Rubin | Times Staff Writer

The two women whose bodies were discovered Friday at a Big Sur resort with their hands bound and plastic bags around their heads apparently died in a suicide pact, Monterey County sheriff's officials said Monday.

Abigail Tapia, 27, and Jacqueline Toves, 26, who shared a Long Beach apartment, both left letters dated at the end of September in their room at the Gorda Springs Inn. The letters, addressed to family members, indicated that the women had planned the double suicide together, authorities said.

"From the letters, it was clear that both were despondent and they were going to carry this out," said Monterey Sheriff's Cmdr. Fred Garcia, who is heading the investigation.

Garcia declined to elaborate on the letters' contents, but bankruptcy filings showed that Toves, who was unemployed, was $63,000 in debt.

Garcia added that the letters -- one handwritten and one typed -- provided no clues as to why the women had chosen to carry out their apparent pact at the secluded inn, which overlooks California 1 and the Pacific Ocean.

Garcia declined to say whether one woman had assisted the other, but confirmed that Tapia was found with her hands and feet tightly bound and a white ceramic mask fitted over the plastic bag, while the rope binding Toves was considerably looser.

Autopsies performed Monday on both woman were inconclusive, Garcia said, adding that neither woman had suffered any outward trauma, such as bruises or stabbings. Investigators are now awaiting the results of toxicology reports to determine whether either of the women was drugged, Garcia said.

Toves' father, Francis Toves, said he spoke to his daughter every week from his home in Agat, Guam, and that she had given him no reason to worry the last time they spoke.

"I want to find out what happened and get the truth," Toves said when told of the sheriff's suicide theory. "They have to prove it to me .... My daughter is a cheerful and spunky girl." Toves added, however, that two years ago his daughter had apparently struggled with depression and was rushed to a hospital after an apparent overdose.

Tapia and Toves were discovered in their room around 4:30 Friday afternoon by Leonardo Flores, the inn's manager. Flores said that the women had requested that the room next to theirs not be rented out -- a request he could not fulfill -- and had declined housecleaning services throughout their weeklong stay.

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Times special correspondent Sally Ann Connell contributed to this report.

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