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San Diego family's death may be a murder-suicide

The bodies of a couple and their two daughters were found in the pool and bathtub of a home in the Skyline area east of downtown. The father left a note describing financial problems.

May 25, 2011|By Richard Marosi and Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times
  • Alex Jasmund, 17, shows a cellphone photo of himself with Priscilla Pimienta, a classmate with whom he was making plans for the prom.
Alex Jasmund, 17, shows a cellphone photo of himself with Priscilla Pimienta,… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from San Diego -- Nothing about the family's life in their working-class neighborhood foretold of trouble, according to family and friends.

Alfredo, 44, and Georgina Pimienta, 38, shared their single-story home in the Skyline area east of downtown with their daughters, Priscilla, 17, and Emily, 9.

Alfredo was a tow truck operator who seemed to get along well with his wife, according to relatives. Emily liked to bike around the quiet streets with other children; Priscilla was a studious teenager who was looking forward to college.

But on Tuesday the sight behind the yellow crime scene tape at the Pimienta house on Parkcreek Court left friends and neighbors stunned and grief-stricken.

The four family members were found dead at their home, three submerged in a backyard pool, another in a bathtub, according to police. All appeared to have drowned, and early evidence suggested a murder-suicide, said Lt. Ernie Herbert of the San Diego Police Department.

Indications are that the husband killed his wife and the children before killing himself, police said. In a note that the father left inside the house, he described financial problems and left instructions on how to dispose of the family's property.

"What happened?" — a woman identified as Georgina Pimienta's mother cried in Spanish as she collapsed into the arms of her husband, Jose Villa, after arriving at the tidy cul-de-sac where her daughter's family had lived for at least a year.

Several neighbors, family members and friends gathered on the street Tuesday, hoping to make sense of the situation. But the cul-de-sac remained cordoned off as homicide detectives and paramedics worked in the shady backyard, where the bodies were laid on the concrete pool deck.

Alex Jasmund, 17, said he went to the movies Monday afternoon to see "Priest" with Priscilla, whom he described as his best friend at San Diego's High Tech High School. Afterward, he said, they went out for yogurt and then sat by the pool, where they talked about their upcoming senior prom.

Priscilla was unique, Alex said, a lively, quirky and funny girl. "There's no one like her. She's just Priscilla," he said, adding that she never complained of any serious problems.

"Nothing seemed wrong," said Alex, whose father drove him to the neighborhood Tuesday. "How did this happen? And why did this happen?"

There were signs that the family struggled financially. Jose Villa, Georgina's stepfather, said the family had rented the home through the federal Section 8 rental-assistance program. Villa said his stepdaughter was a "hard-working and loving mother."

Police said a relative received a call from Alfredo Pimienta, asking him to come over to discuss a business transaction. When the relative arrived at the home about 6 a.m. Tuesday, he found two bodies in the pool and called police. Officers and paramedics found a third body in the pool and the remaining body, that of Georgina, in a bathtub inside the house. Efforts to revive the victims failed, police said.

Neighbor Marlon Soriano, 22, said the last time he saw the family was on Sunday afternoon. Alfredo was unloading tools and lumber for a house project, and the two girls were playing in the frontyard. Alfredo and Georgina would smile and greet neighbors and weren't known to argue, he said. "They seemed like a real close family," Soriano said. "There was no indication that anything was going wrong."

Times staff writer Tony Perry contributed to this report.

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