Crime - Sacto 911

Coroner releases quadruple-homicide victim identities; city grieves at memorial service

Once crime tape was removed Sunday, a memorial quickly went up near the scene of a quadruple homicide on 35th Avenue in Sacramento.
Once crime tape was removed Sunday, a memorial quickly went up near the scene of a quadruple homicide on 35th Avenue in Sacramento. tbizjak@sacbee.com

Police investigators on Sunday morning concluded four days of analysis at the South Land Park scene of a quadruple homicide last week – taking down the yellow tape that had blocked 35th Avenue since Thursday and saying they hope the shocked community can now begin the slow process of returning to normality.

“It is our hope that other residents of the neighborhood can begin returning to a more typical routine,” Sacramento Police Department spokesman Matt McPhail said in a statement. “We know this event has had an impact on many people, and we appreciate everyone’s patience while we work through the meticulous process of investigating a case such as this.”

With the police tape gone, a memorial of candles and stuffed animals sprung up Sunday morning on the front lawn of the trim home.

The Sacramento County coroner confirmed the identities of four people killed as 45-year-old Angelique Vasquez, her 14-year-old daughter Mia Vasquez, 11-year-old son Alvin Vasquez, and 21-year-old Ashley Coleman.

McPhail said he did not immediately know what relationship Coleman had to the Vasquez family, although several television news media have reported that Coleman is Angelique Vasquez’s niece.

Salvador Vasquez-Oliva, 56, was booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail on four counts of murder Friday morning. Property records indicated that a Salvador Vasquez and an Angelique Vasquez lived in the home where the killings occurred.

Vasquez-Oliva was detained by authorities in San Francisco a few hours after Sacramento police officers found the four bodies while conducting a welfare check prompted by a concerned family member.

Vasquez-Oliva is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Sacramento Superior Court.

The deaths rocked the placid neighborhood. About 60 mourners, including friends, co-workers, schoolmates and city leaders, gathered Saturday evening at a memorial vigil to grieve and to honor the victims.

“This sums up the feeling of a city,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, addressing the solemn gathering of dozens at 35th Avenue and Gloria Drive, near the home.

“We see two sides of life. On one side, a community experiences the unfathomable, the unthinkable. The one side of life says this is unspeakable,” Steinberg said. “But what we’re experiencing also shows another side: that in moments of grief, you’re not alone. … People of Sacramento, you’re not alone. Kids, know that the world you live in is a good and great place.”

“One thing we do know is that when bad things happen in Sacramento, Sacramento shows up,” said City Councilman Jay Schenirer.

People on Gloria Drive remember the boy who rode his bicycle up and down the streets and the girl who played with their children.

“They played with my grandchildren. It’s just been a shock,” Rita Munoz said before the vigil. “We’re sick to our stomachs.”

Monét Burtley, 14, and her mother, Monique Burtley, walked up to the corner of 35th Avenue and Gloria Drive Saturday evening and joined the crowd. In her hands, Monét held a white sign reading “Rest in peace Mia and Alvin. We miss you.”

The teen said she had last seen her friend and fellow Sam Brannan Middle School eighth-grader Mia Vasquez on Tuesday.

She described the 14-year-old and her brother, Alvin, as sporty siblings.

Mia liked to play soccer while Alvin was a basketball player.

“They were really outgoing and generous people,” she said. “They didn't deserve this.”

That, among so many reasons, is why the neighborhood is in shock and why they say they needed to come together Saturday night.

Michael Wake’s parents bought their home here in 1973. He and his brother went to Sam Brannan Middle School and McClatchy High. His family’s roots are in this neighborhood, and it’s why he was shaken when he heard the news.

“This is the worst thing I’ve seen in this neighborhood. This is the worst I’ve ever heard of,” said Wake, who returned to South Land Park in 2013. “It definitely changes the face of the neighborhood. It’s going to pull the neighborhood together, but it’s not the way I want the neighborhood pulled together.”

Brian Ebbert, president of the South Land Park Neighborhood Association, and other board members fanned out earlier talking to neighbors about the past few days, whether there would be a vigil and how to remember the four who died.

“People were breaking down in tears – people I haven’t met before. It’s one of those things that’s hard to comprehend. There’s a lot of sadness and anger that this could’ve happened. No one could even fathom that this could happen in anyone’s family,” Ebbert said. “There’s a natural human reaction to want to get together and huddle as a community. There has been a black cloud over our street, and that’s why we need this today.”

As troubling for neighbors Saturday night was the ever-present work of detectives at the house, which took four days. “What’s caused us to be so emotional is that they’re still here,” Munoz said. “Why are they still here? What else did he do to them? It’s four people. How did he overcome them? We want to find out why he did this, and why his children?”

Officer Linda Matthew, a Police Department spokeswoman, said the length of time is not unusual.

“These scenes on their own, even if it’s just one victim, take a long time,” Matthew said of the investigation earlier Saturday. “They’ve got to make sure they are being thorough.”

Police chaplains went door to door Saturday to ask neighbors what they needed. Their visit provided some comfort, said Teresa Raines, a 19-year resident, before the vigil, but the dark cloud that hovers over the neighborhood will take longer to lift.

“We’re feeling pretty bad. We’re feeling helpless because we’re doors away. It’s scary because (the investigators) have been here so long,” Raines said. “This street was really lively. It’s quiet now. People are wondering what’s going on.”

They are also wondering what to tell their children.

“I haven’t told my children,” said Jenny Woods, walking with her dog, Buddy, as the vigil was beginning. The barricades and yellow tape, television trucks and cars down the street?

“I just tell them it’s road work,” she said. “I don’t even understand it. How can they?”

Angelique Vasquez was interviewed by a camera crew on her way to work just 11 1/2 hours before authorities on Thursday entered the 35th Avenue home where she lived and found four bodies, Fox 40 news reported.

Introducing herself as Angel Vasquez, she talked with the station’s Sonseeahray Tonsall and was interviewed for a story about Sacramento’s Capitol Towers telling tenants that marijuana use would be banned on its property in compliance to federal law rather than the state law allowing for recreational use.

“I think that’s a fair decision,” Vasquez said in the interview.

 

Fox 40 reported that Vasquez told Tonsall after the interview that she had once thought about going into TV news.

The Sacramento Bee’s state worker salary database lists both Vasquez-Oliva and Vasquez as employees of the California Employment Development Department. EDD officials confirmed Vasquez-Oliva’s employment Friday afternoon, saying he worked in a non-public office as an office technician at EDD since October 2012.

The department refused to comment on the 45-year-old woman’s employment, saying in an email that they “have not received confirmation of the victims’ identities.”

A woman with her name is identified in the database as a personnel technician who has worked with the department since 2007.

No information about a possible murder weapon or how the four people were killed was offered by police.

“We’re still in shock. The neighborhood is wanting to come together and share their loss with friends and neighbors and console each other,” said Joe Devlin, chief of staff for Schenirer, who represents South Land Park and whose office helped organize the Saturday evening gathering, calling the vigil “an outlet for grief.”

“No one can really make sense of any of this,” Devlin said.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets

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