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Teen Guns 2 Down, Kills Self in O.C.

Looking 'like Darth Vader' in mask and cape, youth kills father and daughter neighbors, then takes his own life. No motive is known.

October 30, 2005|David Haldane and Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writers

Two days short of Halloween, a 19-year-old Aliso Viejo man wearing a paintball mask and dark cape terrorized his neighborhood Saturday morning by gunning down a woman and her father in their home and taking aim at others before committing suicide, authorities said.

"He looked like he could have been going out for Halloween ... like Darth Vader," Lt. Erin Giudice, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department, said of the shotgun-toting teenager, who also shattered a window of another neighbor's house and pointed his weapon at a resident before it misfired.

The gunman, William Freund, had no relationship with his victims, although they were acquainted, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said. "It appears to be a random shooting," he said. "This a very tragic and very bizarre story."

The shootings, in an upper-middle-class neighborhood called California Summit, began just after 9 a.m. on Somerset Drive, a circular street with about two dozen single-family homes.

Freund -- wearing a cape and a dark paintball helmet with a clear face shield -- left his house on Sunbury Drive, which crosses Somerset, drove his car less than 100 yards around a corner, entered the neighbors' house and opened fire, according to deputies. Christina Smith, 22, and her father, Vernon Smith, 45, were killed. One body was found in the family room and the other on the staircase, Amormino said.

Christina's 20-year-old brother, who was not further identified, escaped unhurt through the back door, Amormino said. Her mother was at work.

After leaving the Smiths' house, authorities said, Freund shot at a house across the street, breaking a window and slightly injuring a man inside with the falling glass. Freund then tried to shoot at another man who had come outside to investigate, Amormino said, but the weapon did not fire.

Finally, Freund walked slowly back to his own house and shot himself with the shotgun.

Amormino said more deaths could easily have occurred. "Everybody [in the neighborhood] feels lucky, but very sad." Most are in shock, he said.

Freund lived with his parents, who were being questioned by deputies Saturday afternoon. They were not identified by deputies, but property records show that the home belongs to Dennis J. and Karen L. Freund. They could not be reached for comment.

Based on 911 calls, Amormino said, the incident spanned just three to four minutes.

The first calls from the Smiths' neighbors came at 9:07 a.m., he said, followed quickly by another set of calls from Freund's neighbors.

Amormino said deputies found no signs that Freund had been using drugs or alcohol.

Stunned neighbors who gathered in front of their homes Saturday afternoon described Freund as quiet kid who sometimes played his guitar in front of his house.

"He was always with his parents," said a 15-year-old neighbor who lives a block away.

Freund attended nearby Aliso Niguel High School, graduating in 2003. He did not sit for a yearbook photo.

At a homecoming dance at the school Saturday night, none of those interviewed said they knew him, and even in his own neighborhood, no one seemed to know him well.

"I'm just freaked out," said Shannon Hill, 36, who lives three doors from Freund. "We're just like, 'Did he go freako?' It's not like we heard any yelling or anything over there."

The Smiths, described as an outgoing and friendly family, were known for their decorative holiday displays. Every Christmas, said a neighbor, the Smith house looked like "a miniature village with multiple Christmas trees. They are really welcoming to everyone in the neighborhood."

On Saturday, the house, cordoned off by yellow crime-scene tape, was decked in Halloween colors, with miniature ghosts, goblins, witches and skeletons hanging from its porch.

A couple of blocks away, a child's birthday party was in full swing, with young guests still arriving in costume.

"This is the ultimate suburb," Ephraim said. "It's scary to think something like this could happen so close to home."

Other residents said they hadn't heard the shots.

"In the morning," said Yoshie Harada, 46, "I noticed the streets were blocked off," but she said she thought deputies were trying to keep party-goers at a nearby college campus from parking in residential areas.

"It is surprising," she said of the shooting.

"But then again, it could happen anywhere."

Times staff writers Evelyn Larrubia and Christine Hanley contributed to this report.

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