Boys Shot by Father Remain in Hospital, One in Critical Condition, One Serious

Times Staff Writers

Two boys shot by their father in Rancho Santa Margarita remained hospitalized Tuesday, a day after their father killed their brother and then committed suicide.

Five-year-old Larry Mitchell Zipprian, who was shot in the head, remained in critical condition Tuesday at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo. His 3-year-old brother, Bret Zipprian, who was shot in the abdomen, was listed in serious condition in the hospital's intensive-care unit, hospital spokeswoman Jan Walker said.

Sheriff's deputies said the two boys were shot Monday morning by their father, Dewey Edward Zipprian, 34, a cable television technician who killed his 9-year-old son before killing himself at a business park in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Zipprian and his estranged wife were in the midst of a custody battle. Mary Lynn Zipprian had filed for divorce on July 27, seeking custody of one son, Bret. The other two sons were listed as living with their father. A 14-year-old daughter, Teresa, was not with her father and brothers at the time of the shootings.

History of Abuse

Under state law, all cases involving disputes over the custody of children must be referred to mediation before the case proceeds before a judge. The first hearing in the divorce case was last Friday, and the couple were sent to Orange County Superior Court's mediation services, which scheduled a meeting for Thursday.

In court papers, Mary Zipprian described a long history of physical abuse and family fights, including a stay in a shelter for battered women in San Antonio, Tex., in March, 1986. The couple reconciled and rented a home in Rancho Santa Margarita the following month.

Mary Zipprian described herself as a loan-processing officer for a Santa Ana firm. She said she earned about $1,350 per month and had no health insurance through her employer.

She had asked that her husband be ordered not to approach within 150 yards of her at any time.

The file showed that at the time of the shooting, a June 26 agreement between husband and wife governing custody matters was still in effect. That accord was worked out as part of an earlier lawsuit, filed in March by the wife and alleging physical and mental abuse by the husband.

Case Worker's Recollections

They agreed to joint legal custody of all children, to grant the husband physical custody of Dewey Jr. and Mitchell and to give the mother physical custody of Bret and Teresa.

The parents agreed to alternate weekends with the children. Under the agreement, Dewey Sr. had custody of the boys last weekend.

Mary Zipprian, who lives in an apartment in Tustin, could not be reached Tuesday.

Darrell Kempk, a case worker at the Battered Women's Center in San Antonio, said Mary Zipprian and her children were taken in at the shelter on March 3, 1986. But they stayed only a day and then left for California. Her husband followed her to California and returned to Texas with the two older boys before the couple reconciled and rented the Rancho Santa Margarita house.

"She wasn't here long enough for us to get her whole story," Kempk said. "But I do remember Dewey (Jr.). He was a sweet kid."

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