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Stress Pushed Man to Kill Son, Himself, Family Says

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Delfin Bartolome was a hard-working family man, a father of three who never buckled under the stress of raising a son with severe autism--a 27-year-old who still slept in his parents’ bedroom.

But the 55-year-old Laguna Niguel engineer was becoming increasingly despondent about his job security. The stress of that uncertainty, his family said, was something Bartolome couldn’t handle.

Monday, Bartolome shot his son Dale to death outside Vocational Visions A.R.T.S, a Mission Viejo school for the developmentally disabled that he attended. Then Bartolome turned the gun on himself.

Witnesses saw the two talking in the back seat of their minivan about 3:30 p.m.

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Three hours later, a teacher noticed the van was still there with its engine running. She looked inside and found father and son dead.

Authorities say Bartolome shot Dale twice in the upper torso with a .357-caliber handgun and shot himself once in the head.

The violence left family members stunned and seeking answers as they gathered in Bartolome’s Laguna Niguel home Tuesday.

“We have always known Delfin to be a devoted husband and father,” said Roger Mationg, 27, Bartolome’s nephew. “Although we cannot understand what was going on in his mind at the time, we imagine that he believed his intentions were out of concern and love for his family during what may have been a stressful time for him.”

Bartolome was described by those who knew him as a quiet man who was devoted to his family and to providing for them.

On Friday nights, he played poker with family and friends--and always won. On weekends, he and wife, Alexis, 54, would go swing dancing, taking Dale along for the ride across the floor. Each Sunday, Bartolome made breakfast for his family before taking them to church.

“Dad, he lived for us,” said his son Don, 20. “He was hard to shop for on Father’s Day or Christmas because he didn’t have any hobbies. He cared for his family and didn’t care about what others had.”

At Vocational Visions, a caseworker said the severity of Dale’s autism required one-on-one attention. Neighbors said he would occasionally burst from his home, run screaming to the end of the block, then turn and calmly walk back.

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By necessity, Dale was his family’s focal point, someone who required constant love and patience. That was something family members say Delfin and Alexis Bartolome had plenty of.

“Every time Del talked about him, he would have this big smile,” said neighbor Mary Beth Molnar. “You know he loved his son and loved to care for him.”

A native of the Philippines, Bartolome came to the United States in 1971. He worked as an electrical engineer for Bechtel Corp. for 20 years, first in San Francisco and later in Orange County, where he was transferred.

He went to work for Aliso Viejo-based Fluor Corp. in 2000. When his project came to an end in mid-June, a company official said Bartolome was given a “customary” leave of absence.

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“It’s the first time he stayed home, and it was a big adjustment,” said Priscilla Nishiyama, his sister-in-law. “It was difficult.”

Bartolome was called back to work on a new project July 19, but only for a month, according to family members. He wasn’t sure if he’d have a job once the month was over, they said.

“He gladly and enthusiastically returned to work,” company spokeswoman Lori Serrato said.

The temporary nature of the job unnerved Bartolome, said family members who tried to reassure him.

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“He had great skills, and we told him they usually extend the projects,” said a brother-in-law who worked with him at Fluor and declined to give his name. Monday, hours before he shot his son and himself, Bartolome went to work.

“He was fine,” said his brother-in-law. “There was no indication this would happen.”

Bartolome talked of retiring in four years. He planned to buy his two younger sons each a duplex near family in Rancho Santa Margarita. Then he planned to return to the Philippines.

“He wanted to take Alexis and Dale back and build a house for them,” said Juan Mationg, Bartolome’s brother-in-law. “He was always thinking about their future.”

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Times staff writer Scott Martelle contributed to this report.


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