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In Thousand Oaks, a father does the unthinkable

Distraught over his divorce and job loss, James Mulvaney killed his children and then himself, authorities say.

September 18, 2009|Catherine Saillant

Distraught over his divorce and the loss of his job, James Mulvaney did the unthinkable, Ventura County authorities say.

Sometime after his ex-wife dropped their two children off at his Thousand Oaks apartment Tuesday, Mulvaney stabbed 12-year-old Jason and 7-year-old Jennifer to death in their bedrooms.

The 52-year-old father then took his own life by overdosing on prescription pills, a preliminary review Thursday by the county medical examiner's office indicates.

Pending toxicology tests are needed to confirm the finding, but Mulvaney's body had no visible trauma and prescription medicines were found in the residence, Deputy Medical Examiner Michael Tellez said.

Autopsies revealed that the children died of multiple stab wounds, Sheriff's Det. Eric Buschow said. The killings were so frenzied that the scene in the children's bedrooms shook even seasoned homicide investigators.

"Whatever took place in there was horrific," Buschow said.

Investigators are calling it a murder-suicide. They didn't find a suicide note and said Mulvaney had no criminal record.

But court records show that Mulvaney and his ex-wife, Julie Mulvaney, had been battling in court over child custody, the sale of a home and financial issues for more than a year.

Then, in early September, Mulvaney was let go from a senior position at Citibank in Camarillo, a job he'd held for more than a decade, a bank source said. A Citibank spokesman confirmed that Mulvaney was a former employee but declined to provide any other information about him.

Julie Mulvaney, also a banker, filed for divorce in February 2008. Though their marriage had legally ended last November, the couple was headed for a January trial to resolve outstanding issues, the court records show.

Neighbors say that Mulvaney moved to his apartment at the Knolls, located in one of Thousand Oaks' wealthiest neighborhoods, about six months ago. He was frequently seen taking his children to the park or the swimming pool.

"In this economy, a lot of marriages are failing," said Kathleen Zlokowich, who lives in another section of the large complex. "And it seems like the husbands all end up here."

After his wife dropped off the kids Tuesday, Mulvaney took his son to soccer practice as usual that night, Buschow said. His ex-wife began to worry when she discovered that the children had not shown up for school on Wednesday, he said.

She drove to the apartment about 5:45 p.m. and found the bodies after entering the unlocked front door, Buschow said.

"We can't know what was going on in his head," the detective said. "But I can't imagine what would lead someone to do this to his own children."

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catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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