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Los Angeles man kills his 5 children, wife, self

Police find the family shot to death at their home in the Wilmington neighborhood. The couple had recently been fired from a Kaiser hospital after a misconduct probe, sources say.

January 28, 2009|Richard Winton, Andrew Blankstein and Ari B. Bloomekatz

Watching his family's new, two-story home being built in 2001, Ervin Antonio Lupoe appeared to be riding a wave of hope and excitement. He dropped by each week to check the progress, one construction worker recalled.

But in what authorities believe was a gruesome burst of anger after he and his wife lost their jobs, the burly 40-year-old X-ray technician turned that same Wilmington home into a family tomb, officials said Tuesday.

Armed with a handgun, Lupoe evidently roamed room to room starting as early as Monday evening, fatally shooting his wife and five young children -- including two sets of twins.

Early Tuesday, Lupoe faxed a bitter, rambling two-page letter to a local television station blaming his employer for his actions. Though his wife and children were already dead, he also called the station threatening to kill his family, investigators believe. He followed this up with an incongruous call to police saying that he had returned home and that "my whole family has been shot."

Before police and firefighters arrived, he turned the weapon on himself, authorities believe.

Amid record job losses and economic distress for millions of families, the killings struck a chord.

"This was a financial- and job-related issue that led to the slayings," said Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Kenneth Garner. "It's a grisly scene."

But evidence was emerging Tuesday evening that the couple had been fired after an investigation into misconduct and had not been laid off as part of cost-cutting.

Kaiser Permanente confirmed in a statement that Lupoe and his wife, Ana, were recently terminated from employment at the health network's West Los Angeles Medical Center. Hospital officials declined to provide details, saying only that they were cooperating with investigators and "deeply saddened' by the deaths.

The letter received at KABC-TV shortly after 8 a.m. said Lupoe and his wife had made a suicide pact. It referred to an investigation into employment misrepresentation in connection with a child care issue. (The probe involved allegations of fraud, according to sources familiar with the inquiry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry was ongoing.)

"So after a horrendous ordeal," the letter said, "my wife felt it better to end our lives, and why leave our children in someone's else's hands. . . ."

The letter claimed that a Kaiser supervisor suggested Lupoe shoot himself, an allegation that Kaiser denies. The letter also said the hospital did nothing to help the family, "knowing we have no job and five children under 8 years with no place to go."

"Oh lord, my God," the letter concluded, "is there no hope for a widow's son?"

The portrait of Lupoe remained sketchy. His 83-year-old grandmother, Josephine Lupoe, who sobbed as she learned of her grandson's death, said he was largely consumed by work.

"Every time I called him, he was at work," she said. "He worked all the time."

Lupoe had been at the West Los Angeles hospital about 10 years, and Tuesday's events shocked co-workers, said emergency services employee Vic Tuvera, 58.

"We saw him happy," Tuvera said. "I knew him as a good person and a good worker."

Ana Lupoe, a medical technician, was remembered as "a sweet lady. Always smiling with everybody," said Hamlet Narvaez, 40, a Kaiser transportation worker. She was "always talking about the kids," he said.

The family's crisis apparently began coming to a head about two weeks ago, when the couple were let go. About the same time, Lupoe showed up to check the three older children out of Crescent Heights Elementary School, not far from the hospital.

The father said the family was moving to Kansas, recalled Principal Cherise Pounders-Caver. She said she had gotten to know the family well since becoming principal three years ago and had no indications of problems.

They were "very caring about the education of their children" and joined in a December program at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood against community violence.

Police said Lupoe was found in an upstairs room with the three girls: 8-year-old Brittney and twin 5-year-olds Jaszmin and Jasseley. A revolver was by the father's side, and a suicide note was found nearby, police said. The twin 2-year-old boys, Benjamin and Christian, along with their mother, were found in a nearby bedroom.

Investigators strongly suspect the case was a murder-suicide. But they said they would continue reviewing physical evidence to rule out other possibilities.

Lupoe was born in Georgia and later lived in the Bay Area's Santa Clara County, where he went to high school, records and interviews show. The couple more recently lived in Los Angeles, where court records show he sought a restraining order after a confrontation with a neighbor.

His grandmother, who lives in Atlanta, said she hadn't seen Lupoe in recent years. "The last conversation we had was he called me to let me know that his wife was -- they were expecting boys, twins, real soon," she said.

"He was excited. We all were excited because -- having two sets of twins!

"I do know he loved children because he said so."

Tuesday killings come three months after a murder-suicide in Chatsworth. Karthik Rajaram of Porter Ranch fatally shot his wife, mother-in-law and three sons, before taking his own life. Authorities said Rajaram was distraught after seeing his finances wiped out by the stock market plunge.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday noted the "perils and dangers" of the economic crisis.

"Whatever was the cause of the desperation that triggered this violence, there's help out there," he said. "There's nothing, no option so horrible that can make you do something as horrific as this."

--

richard.winton@latimes.com

andrew.blankstein @latimes.com

ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

Corina Knoll, Ruben Vives and Rich Connell contributed to this report.

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