LOS ANGELES -- In one upstairs bedroom, the bodies of twin 2-year-old boys were found beside their dead mother. In another bedroom, 5-year-old twin girls and their 8-year-old sister lay next to their lifeless father.
Officers discovered the horrific scene after rushing to a home in Wilmington, prompted by the father's distraught letter faxed to a TV station describing a "tragic story" and a call to authorities.
Police believe Ervin Lupoe, 40, killed his five children and his wife before turning the gun on himself. Both adults were recently fired from their hospital jobs.
"Why leave our children in someone else's hands?" Lupoe wrote in his letter faxed to KABC-TV. The station posted the letter on its Web site with some parts redacted.
The station called police after receiving the fax, and a police dispatch center also received a phone call from a man who stated, "I just returned home and my whole family's been shot." Police are unsure who the male caller was, but they suspect it was the father.
Officers rushed to the home in Wilmington, a small community between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and found the bodies.
All the victims were shot in the head, some multiple times, coroner's Assistant Chief Ed Winter said. The killings may have occurred between Monday evening and early Tuesday, based on neighbors' accounts of firecracker sounds, he said.
Although the fax -- addressed to "whom it may concern" and explaining "why we are dead" -- asserted that the wife, Ana Lupoe, planned the killings of the whole family, police Lt. John Romero said Ervin Lupoe was the suspect. A revolver was found next to his body.
It was the fifth mass death of a Southern California family by murder or suicide in a year. Police urged those facing tough economic times to get help rather than resort to violence.
"Today our worst fear was realized," said Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner. "It's just not a solution. There's just so many ways you find alternatives to doing something so horrific and drastic as this."
Ervin Lupoe removed three of the children from school about a week and a half ago, saying the family was moving to Kansas, the principal told KCAL-TV. Crescent Heights Elementary School Principal Cherise Pounders-Caver said nothing seemed to be troubling Ervin Lupoe, and she did not ask why the family was moving.
Kaiser Permanente Medical Center West Los Angeles released a statement confirming Lupoe and his wife were fired as medical technicians more than a week ago. The hospital said the firings followed an internal investigation but would not specify why they lost their jobs.
The letter indicated that Lupoe and his wife -- both 40 -- had been investigated for misrepresenting their employment to an outside agency to obtain childcare. He claimed that an administrator told the couple on Dec. 23: "You should not even had bothered to come to work today you should have blown your brains out."
Lupoe's letter said the couple complained to the human resources department and eventually were offered an apology but two days later they were fired.
"They did nothing to the manager who stated such and did not attempt to assist us in the matter, knowing we have no job and five children under 8 years with no place to go. So here we are," the note said.
At the bottom of the letter, Lupoe wrote, "Oh lord, my God, is there no hope for a widow's son?" The phrase is frequently found in Internet discussions about the novel "The Da Vinci Code," Freemasons and Mormonism.
Kaiser Permanente said staff was "saddened by the despair" in Lupoe's letter "but we are confident that no one told him to take his own life or the lives of his family."
Lupoe's fax identified his children as Brittney, 8; 5-year-old twins Jaszmin and Jassely; and twins Benjamin and Christian, ages 2 years and 4 months. Winter confirmed the identities of the girls, but the boys' names were pending.
Lupoe got a state license to work as a security guard in 1989 and a permit to carry a gun as a security guard in 1993 but both expired in 2007, said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the state Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.
Bob Pierce, a Long Beach attorney who represented the Lupoes in an auto accident, said the case did not involve any serious injuries and the family was expected to receive "well below $10,000," he said.
Lupoe called Monday to find out when the money might be coming, Pierce said. Pierce told him that it might be another week or two "and he said 'no problem."'
To Amanda Garcia, everything seemed normal in the Lupoe house next door. Her neighbors always had a friendly wave and their five young children would play outside.
"They were happy, they had birthday parties," the 22-year-old Garcia said as she choked back tears near her home. "The kids were always outside on bikes, riding on their wagon."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)