Marital Strife Is Blamed in 2 Deaths

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

A man who shot his estranged wife to death and killed himself during lunch at a North Hollywood restaurant had appeared depressed recently and had talked about marital troubles, acquaintances said Wednesday.

"He looked kind of sad and depressed," said Juana Montes, a receptionist at the Family Practice Medical Clinic, who worked in the same building as Rudolfo "Rudy" Morales, 55. She said she last saw him a week ago. "He was usually so nice and polite, but that day he was down."

Morales, 55, shot Erma Yolanda Montepeque, 38, to death during lunch Tuesday at Don Felix restaurant before turning the gun on himself.

"We can only guess what went wrong, but I don't think we'll ever know for sure," said Los Angeles Police Det. Mike McGlivray. "It had to do with their relationship, but we don't know exactly what."

If Montepeque, who had a 10-year-old son from a previous marriage, was troubled by Morales, she did not tell her family about it, police said.

Montepeque, who worked a night shift at a senior citizens' home in the San Fernando Valley, had a sister in Las Vegas and a cousin in East Los Angeles who knew nothing about problems with Morales, police said.

Most of the victim's family live in her native Guatemala, where Morales also grew up.

Montepeque's son, Jeffrey, had been in Guatemala visiting relatives and was due to return the day of the shooting. The slain couple were married about three years ago and had separated three months ago, police said.

Two people who worked in the same Los Angeles business complex as Morales said he seemed depressed lately.

At Oscar's Flowers in the Vermont Avenue building where Morales ran a real estate business, the owner said Morales spoke about troubles with his wife.

"One time, about a month ago, he told me about a problem he was having with her," said Oscar, who refused to give his last name.

Another worker at the complex said she saw Morales a week ago.

"He looked kind of sad and depressed," said Juana Montes, a receptionist at the Family Practice Medical Clinic. "He was usually so nice and polite, but that day he was down."

Morales, who lived near his office, had visited the clinic that morning for a blood test, she said. "He was worried about his cholesterol," Montes said. "But everything checked out in the normal range."

Angela Romero, a neighbor of Montepeque in North Hollywood, said Morales may have been jealous. "They were separated and she had other male friends," she said.

Romero added that she would occasionally look after Jeffrey.

"This is just so tragic for him," she said. "Yolanda was an excellent mother, always looking after him. They were very close. Last night I couldn't sleep."

Before Morales shot himself, he had called his mother on a cellular phone, McGlivray said.

"I just shot Yolanda and I'm going to be taking my own life now," Morales told his mother, according to McGlivray. "He apologized and told her he wanted his kids to know he loved them."

Customers at Don Felix restaurant said they hardly noticed the couple, who appeared to be having a nice time, before the gunshots rang out in the small eatery on Lankershim Boulevard, according to police.

Riccardo Goto, a chef and brother of the restaurant's owner, said the restaurant would probably reopen today.

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