A 34-year-old cable television technician, distraught over a custody dispute involving his children, shot and killed his 9-year-old son, wounded his two younger boys and then fatally shot himself in an Orange County business park Monday, authorities said.
Dewey Edward Zipprian and his 9-year-old son, Dewey Edward Jr., were declared dead at the scene, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department said.
The two surviving sons, identified as Bret Adam, 3, and Larry Mitchell, 5, were taken to Mission Community Hospital in Mission Viejo, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Richard J. Olson said.
Larry Zipprian was listed in critical condition Monday evening after surgery for a gunshot wound to the head, a hospital nursing supervisor said. Bret Zipprian, who was shot in the abdomen, was listed in serious condition in the hospital's intensive-care unit. Their mother was with the boys at the hospital Monday afternoon, according to hospital spokeswoman Jan Walker.
Olson said the murder-suicide apparently was triggered by a child custody dispute between Zipprian and his wife, identified in court records as Mary Lynn Zipprian,31, of Tustin. She could not be reached for comment late Monday.
The estranged couple's 14-year-old daughter, Teresa M. Zipprian, apparently was not with her father and brothers at the time of the shooting.
In a divorce petition filed July 27 in Orange County Superior Court, Mary Zipprian cited "irreconcilable differences," court records showed. A hearing held on the divorce case Friday before temporary Judge Mark Millard was referred to court mediation services and a mediation meeting was scheduled for Thursday.
In the divorce suit and a March 20 civil harassment suit also filed in Orange County Superior Court, Mary Zipprian alleged that her husband had a five-year history of physically and emotionally abusing her. The couple had also been in and out of court-ordered mediation counseling for the past four months, court records showed.
Mary Zipprian was given temporary custody of the four children. But neighbors on the Rancho Santa Margarita street, where the couple had lived until recently, said she eventually turned the two oldest boys over to him because she could not handle all four children.
The shootings occurred Monday morning in a building owned by Rancho Santa Margarita Cablevision in the Rancho Santa Margarita Business Park, a new development east of Mission Viejo, Olson said.
Zipprian, a technician with the company since April, 1986, apparently was in the building used to store electronic equipment when another employee arrived at 8:30 a.m., authorities said.
The employee found the door barricaded from the inside and tried to open it, Olson said. A man yelled from inside, "Go away; don't come in," and then several shots followed, Olson said.
The employee, whose name was not released, called his supervisor. When the two were unable to open the door, they called sheriff's deputies shortly after 9 a.m., Olson said.
Olson said he did not know how long the Zipprians had been married.
Times staff writer Mariann Hansen also contributed to this article.