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Burden of Debt Weighed on Family in Murder-Suicide

Posted by tothewire on January 29, 2009

Ervin and Ana Lupoe had five children, Brittney, 8, twin girls Jaszmin and Jassely, 5, and twin boys Benjamin and Christian, 2.

Ervin and Ana Lupoe had five children, Brittney, 8, twin girls Jaszmin and Jassely, 5, and twin boys Benjamin and Christian, 2.

 LOS ANGELES — Ervin and Ana Lupoe had planned to move closer to family in Kansas to weather the financial storm their lives had fallen into. But a bounced check to the Internal Revenue Service last week may have changed those plans, police detectives said Wednesday, digging the couple deeper into mounting mortgage debt. Instead of building a new life, Mr. Lupoe killed his wife and five children hours before shooting himself in the head on Tuesday morning.

“Things were going on in their life here, but the plan was to move to Kansas,” said Detective David Cortez of the Los Angeles Police Department. “They were discussing that with relatives, loading the truck to drive across country. But something obviously went wrong in the last 24 hours.”

Public records show that the Lupoes had taken out three mortgage loans totaling over $850,000 in 2002, 2005 and 2006. An extensive home remodeling job last year may have added to their financial burden. Detective Cortez said the Lupoes had fallen a month behind in house payments and had found out about the bounced check last weekend. Cecilia Yvar, a neighbor, said the Lupoes seemed upset on Sunday evening. “She was crying,” Ms. Yvar said. “She looked sick. The husband was holding her.”

On Monday afternoon, Ana Lupoe’s brother, Cesar Ramirez, called the couple from Garden City, Kan., to discuss their move. Mr. Lupoe, 40, told Mr. Ramirez that they were “in the car, on their way,” Detective Cortez said. At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, Mr. Ramirez called again to find Mr. Lupoe distraught.

“They’re gone,” Mr. Lupoe told his brother-in-law, according to detectives. “They’re dead,” he said, “I am going to do it myself.”

Ed Winter, assistant chief of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, said the five children and Mrs. Lupoe, 43, were already dead on Tuesday morning. In statements to his brother-in-law, a call to the police and a letter he faxed to a local television station that morning, Mr. Lupoe alternated between saying that he had already killed his family and that they were still alive.

The police were investigating Mr. Lupoe’s mental health history on Wednesday. An officer told detectives that he had encountered Mr. Lupoe and two of his children at a Los Angeles store two years ago, after responding to “a call of a man acting strangely.” Mr. Lupoe was diabetic, the officer said, and had been suffering from low blood sugar. A neighbor told detectives that Mr. Lupoe sometimes had “low glucose” and “acted strangely,” Detective Cortez said.

Ervin Lupoe and Ana Ramirez were married in 1999, Detective Cortez said. Ana, a native of Guatemala, had become an American citizen a decade before. Mr. Lupoe moved to Los Angeles from San Jose, where he was raised by his mother, Carolyn Arndt, a nurse and single parent.

Mrs. Arndt was in shock over the deaths, said Jim Arndt, her brother-in-law. “It hit her so hard. Those are all her grandkids that she has.”

The couple bought their house in Wilmington, just south of Los Angeles, for $290,000 in 2002, soon after the birth of their first daughter. In the years that followed, the couple had two sets of twins and built a second story onto their home.

Public records indicate that Mr. Lupoe had a history of financial troubles. In 1995, he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Los Angeles. Dennis Tibayan, deputy of the bankruptcy court in Los Angeles, could not confirm the amount of Mr. Lupoe’s debts at that time, but said that the filing was discharged in 1996.

In the letter he faxed to KABC-TV, Mr. Lupoe described a tangled workplace dispute at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in West Los Angeles before he and his wife were fired from their jobs as medical technicians there. He said they had been unable to seek other employment because the hospital had not released their medical licenses.

On Dec. 23, he wrote, a hospital administrator told him to leave work and said, “you should have blown your brains out.”

Kaiser Permanente officials said Tuesday in a statement that they were “saddened by the despair in Mr. Lupoe’s letter faxed to the media,” but that they were “confident that no one told him to take his own life or the lives of his family.”

On Wednesday, neighbors gathered to cry and pray beside a makeshift memorial outside the family’s home. Clemencia Ortega, a real estate agent in Wilmington, said the killings had touched many there who are going through hard times financially. “In Wilmington, a lot of people don’t have jobs and they need help,” she said. “It’s so sad.”

By REBECCA CATHCART

http://www.nytimes.com

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