For at least two days, Javier A. Sosa searched frantically for the wife who had fled his abuse, a woman who certainly didn't want to be found.
The 26-year-old tire repairman from City of Commerce called her relatives in Anaheim and got no answers. His wife, Margarita Sosa, told her family she had left home, but gave no word on her whereabouts.
So Sunday afternoon, Javier Sosa drove to the homes of his in-laws and confronted them with a knife and a gun. In a bloody sequence at two separate apartments, Anaheim police say, Javier Sosa stabbed one woman to death, slashed a niece, shot and killed a sister-in-law and then killed himself with a bullet to the head.
On Monday, grieving family members and stunned neighbors lamented an outburst of domestic violence that had claimed so many victims.
If there was a lesson in the attacks, it was that Margarita Sosa's best efforts to avoid domestic violence could do nothing to stop her spouse's uncontrollable rage.
"You have a woman doing what she knows she should to keep her family safe, and it still resulted in tragedy," said Anaheim Police Sgt. Joe Vargas. "She lost a sister and nearly lost a niece. How can she believe she did the right thing?"
Vargas said police investigators were planning to meet with Margarita Sosa on Monday at an undisclosed site in Los Angeles County. The couple's two young children were with her, Vargas said.
"It sounds like she did the right thing," said Betty Fisher, director of Haven Hills, a shelter in the San Fernando Valley. "Tragically, that's no guarantee that she will come out of it OK, or that her family will."
The identity of one of the slain women--described as a 23-year-old friend of the family--remained undisclosed Monday as authorities sought to notify her relatives. Also killed was Marlene Guzman, 36, identified as Margarita Sosa's sister.
The prognosis for Margarita Sosa's niece, Guadalupe Salazar Villarreal, an 18-year-old college student, was good. She was in fair condition Monday afternoon at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, recuperating from stab wounds to her neck and right arm.
Many details about the Sosa family remained unclear Monday, including how long the couple had been married and the history of their marital troubles. A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman said deputies had no record of domestic violence calls from the Sosa address on Bartmus Street near the Santa Ana Freeway. It was not known whether Margarita Sosa had sought a restraining order against Sosa.
But one of Margarita Sosa's sisters, JulVia Villarreal Marroquin, mother of the woman wounded in the stabbing, said Javier Sosa had a history of violence. She said Margarita Sosa had left him twice before, fleeing their home a third time Friday. Anaheim police said Margarita Sosa went to a battered women's shelter.
His wife's departure drove Javier Sosa into a frenzy, family members said. Margarita's relatives in Anaheim told police after the slayings that Sosa had called them repeatedly over two days, threatening them and asking where she was. Despite the threatening calls, the family apparently did not seek police protection.
Shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday, Javier Sosa knocked on Villarreal's door. There he found his 18-year-old niece and a friend who was staying with the family.
"They let him inside because he was not acting violent or anything at first," Vargas said. "But then when they didn't give him the answers he wanted, he flew into a rage."
Sosa stabbed both women repeatedly, fatally wounding the friend. His niece covered her chest and face with her arms during the attack and "pretended to be dead," Vargas said. 'She waited a few minutes until she was sure he was gone and then went to get help," he said.
Javier Sosa left the complex for another sister-in-law's apartment two miles away, where he arrived minutes later. He double-parked his blue Honda outside, hazard lights flashing, and ran to Marlene Guzman's unit.
He again demanded to know where his wife was. Not getting a satisfactory reply from Guzman, he pulled a handgun and shot her at least three times in the chest and neck, and then shot himself once in the head, police said.
Pedro Linares and several other neighbors raced inside the apartment and found Guzman dead on a bed with a telephone in her right hand. Javier Sosa lay by the side of the bed, mortally wounded.
The scene was witnessed by Guzman's 5-year-old and 3-year-old sons, who ran to a baby-sitter's apartment upstairs. Jose Luis Nava, who lives in the apartment, said the older boy was distraught and hugged his wife, Eugenia, not wanting to let go.
According to Jose Luis Nava, the youngster pleaded: "My mother has blood coming out of her head and chest. Who's going to take care of us now?"
Times staff writers Daniel Yi, Erika Chavez and Marcida Dodson contributed to this story.