Crime - Sacto 911

Authorities investigate Davis deaths as murder-suicide

Two people were found dead Friday in this duplex on Glacier Drive in Davis.
Two people were found dead Friday in this duplex on Glacier Drive in Davis. rchang@sacbee.com

Police spent much of Friday piecing together the events that led to the gruesome discovery of two bodies in a west Davis home, while the community struggled to process the senseless tragedy.

Early Friday, Whitney Joypauline Engler, 27, of San Diego and Joseph Andrew Hein, 23, of Davis were found dead on the second floor of a duplex in the 2200 block of Glacier Drive. The discovery came after a police standoff that lasted nearly seven hours.

The incident began shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday when police received an anonymous phone call from a man stating that two people – a male and female – were dead from gunshot wounds. The caller asked for a squad car and abruptly hung up, said Lt. Thomas Waltz of the Davis Police Department.

Police spent the rest of the night surrounding the home, blasting messages through a megaphone asking the residents to come out. Authorities, including the joint Davis/West Sacramento SWAT team, finally entered the home at 1:30 a.m. Friday to find the bodies of Engler and Hein.

Waltz said the case is being investigated as a murder-suicide, but emphasized that no conclusion has been reached on who committed the murder. He added that investigators would be looking at physical evidence and residue, among other factors, to make that determination.

Authorities do not have a motive and are not searching for any suspects.

The official cause of death has not been released pending an autopsy to be conducted Monday, said Gina Moya, chief deputy coroner at Yolo County.

Engler was a student at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and was expected to graduate in May, according to her mother, Virginia Bigler.

In a phone interview with The Sacramento Bee, Bigler said she spoke with her daughter Thursday and believed she was driving home to San Diego that evening.

“She was coming home to study for boards,” Bigler said.

Friends of Engler expressed shock at the news.

Breanna Miller, a classmate, last saw Engler on Thursday at the UC Davis veterinary hospital where the students work.

“She looked happy,” Miller said. “There was no sign of distress.”

Caitlan Koontz, another friend, described Engler as an “an absolute angel.”

“She wanted to return home to San Diego to either work for another veterinarian or eventually open her own practice,” Koontz said. “This was completely out of the blue.”

Engler had two birds, two cats and a dog she kept for anxiety issues, Koontz said, noting the animals were in the house at the time of the siege. Koontz and other classmates are searching for the cats and the dog, Rosie, a red Australian shepherd who escaped during the incident.

Bigler and Engler’s friends said Hein was a roommate, not a boyfriend. Calls to Hein’s family were not returned Friday.

Public records indicate Hein possessed a pilot’s license. According to his Facebook profile, he previously studied at Sierra College.

Kevin Kayhanian, who lives nearby, said he heard what he suspects were the initial gunshots from the home Thursday.

Kayhanian said he rushed to Glacier Drive but didn’t see any people or police officers. About a minute later, he said, 20 officers swarmed the street.

“It looked like something out of a movie,” Kayhanian said.

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang. Bee researcher Pete Basofin contributed to this report.

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