A man described as distraught over marital troubles stabbed his two young daughters and himself to death in the parking lot of a Montclair church Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.
Montclair police said the father made final phone calls to family members early in the afternoon -- including one in which he told his estranged wife to "say goodbye" to the children -- before committing the double murder and suicide.
Police were called to the scene about 1:15 p.m. by a custodian at the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church at 10191 Central Ave. The church employee, police said, reported a "man down in a parking lot, not breathing."
Moments later, according to Montclair Police Capt. Chris Weiske, another call came in from "a hysterical male who told our police dispatcher that his brother had just killed his children."
Late Wednesday, authorities identified the three dead as Josemari Dogoldogol, 38, and his daughters Mary Jo, 5, and Jade, 3.
City police and fire officials found the three victims in the back seat of a dark blue Ford Taurus sedan.
The father was sitting in the middle, with one daughter on each side, the elder in a booster seat and the younger strapped into a car seat.
All three had stab wounds to the chest, and a large knife was discovered on the floor by the back seat. No other weapon was found or is believed to have been used.
Weiske said it appeared that the father had driven to the church, parked the car, left his keys and cellphone in the front seat and then climbed into the back before killing his children and himself.
Paramedics immediately pronounced the father and one of the daughters dead at the scene. The second girl was pulled from the car, and measures were taken to try to save her, but paramedics soon declared her dead as well, Weiske said.
"This kind of stuff just really tears at your heart," he said.
Police learned that Josemari Dogoldogol and his wife, whose name was given as Mylene, had separated over the holidays and that he had been living with his parents, Danilo and Virginia Dogoldogol, in Ontario. Weiske said Josemari Dogoldogol picked up the couple's two young daughters last weekend for a visit with him and the rest of the family in Ontario.
At the church parking lot, authorities also found one of Josemari Dogoldogol's brothers nearby, distraught but unhurt, and took him to the police station to be interviewed. The brother's name was not disclosed by authorities. The estranged wife was found unharmed and living in the San Gabriel Valley; she also was brought to the police station to be interviewed.
Friends said Dogoldogol and his family had been living in Las Vegas but returned to Southern California in recent weeks to be closer to relatives.
The church had been the center of Dogoldogol's family life when he was growing up, friends of the family said.
His parents were characterized as leaders in the Filipino community at the multiethnic Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.
"They were a super-religious family. They were always here, the whole family," said Alex Labrador, who coached Dogoldogol on the church's adult basketball team.
"He was a team leader -- calm, quiet, but a joker in a way," Labrador said, adding that his friend was widely known as "Joe." Dogoldogol was said to have a background as an engineer and recently worked for a major Las Vegas hotel.
Witnesses said that early in the afternoon, they saw a man backing away from the car in the church parking lot, screaming. When he reached a patch of grass in front of the church, he threw himself on the ground.
The man, who a police official said apparently was the brother who notified authorities of the killings, "was just screaming, like he was real upset and crying like he was in disbelief," said Nelson Rodas, who works at a carpet store across the street from the church.
A woman came from inside the church to comfort the man, Rodas said. Soon after, police arrived and detectives approached the car.
Our Lady of Lourdes is a 51-year-old church serving about 2,000 families in Montclair and surrounding communities. It is near Orchard Street on Central Avenue, one of the main business thoroughfares in Montclair, a city in western San Bernardino County about 35 miles east of Los Angeles.
The church also houses a parochial school, but it was closed Wednesday for Christmas break and no children were present.
Times staff writers Jonathan Abrams and Sara Lin contributed to this report.