Garden Grove police are working to determine what caused the deaths of four people — including two children — whose bodies were found in a vehicle parked in a CVS lot. Family members said the victims were a homeless family living in their car.
Officers were sent to 12031 Brookhurst St. shortly after 8:30 p.m. Thursday to investigate "a suspicious vehicle" parked in the lot, authorities said. A woman had walked past a white Honda Odyssey van and noticed a foul smell coming from it, according to the Garden Grove Police Department.
When officers arrived, officials said, they found the van's windows covered with blankets and a sunscreen. The four victims — a man, a woman, a boy and a girl — were found together in the back of the vehicle.
The Orange County Coroner identified the man as Phunyouphone Kanyavong, 41. They said the woman, about 20, and the children — a girl who was almost 2 years old and a boy of 8 to 9 months — will take longer to identify through DNA and fingerprints. Kanyavong and the woman, his girlfriend, were the parents of the children, said Lt. Carl Whitney of the Garden Grove Police Department.
Relatives of Kanyavong's confirmed that the family was from Garden Grove and that they were homeless, Whitney said. Several witnesses said the family had been living in the van for about a month, often at nearby parks and business shopping centers.
The victims did not appear to have suffered any noticeable trauma, and autopsies were underway on Friday, Whitney said. The causes of death would not be determined until toxicology tests are completed, which could take days, he said.
It appeared the victims had been in the vehicle for a day or two based on the condition of the bodies, Whitney said. The four were found in the back of the car, near their clothes and some groceries, he said.
On Friday, four votive candles and some flowers were left near the site where the bodies were found. A handmade sign was also left nearby with the words: "It's time to love and pray for the homeless. God bless this family."
The woman who discovered the victims said she had seen the van in the parking lot for the past several days, police said.
It was believed the family had been in and out of the parking lot for the last month, Garden Grove Police Lt. Chris Lawton said.
"Throughout the city, we have a large homeless population," he said.
Resident Robert Pollitt said the number of people living on the street in his city has increased "by huge margins" in recent years.
"They are everywhere — at the parks and all around," he said. "It's part of the times. … The government really has to do something about offering more shelters."
Homicide detectives along with investigators from the Orange County Sheriff's Department's coroner's office are investigating the case.
Anyone with additional information on the victims is asked to contact the Garden Grove Police Department at (714) 741-5704.
March 17, 11:30 a.m.: This article was updated with the man's identity and other information from the coroner's office.
1:15 p.m.: This article was updated with new details about a makeshift memorial.
12:30 p.m.: This article was updated with new information from Garden Grove Police Lt. Carl Whitney.
6:40 a.m.: This article was updated with a comment from Garden Grove Police Lt. Chris Lawton.