Shotgun Blast Kills Intruder as He Terrorizes Former Wife, In-Laws

Times Staff Writer

The former husband had shown up at the door so many times before that the family bought a pistol. And finally a shotgun.

Early Thursday morning, just days after his latest arrest for domestic violence, Eric Christopher Kiefer, 35, was shot to death when he broke into the Laguna Hills home where his former wife lives, tried to force his daughter to drink an unidentified substance and attacked his in-laws with a homemade hatchet.

“They were worried for their lives. They were worried every night,” said Cindy Gillim, a neighbor. “I don’t blame him for shooting, because it wasn’t going to end.”

Police said Dana Kiefer’s father fired two shots from a pistol at his former son-in-law, missing both times.


Dana Kiefer’s boyfriend then grabbed a shotgun and shot Kiefer once in the neck, police said.

Kiefer, identified as an unemployed Lake Forest resident, was pronounced dead at the home in the 25000 block of Champlain Road, the same residence where he and Dana Kiefer had exchanged wedding vows in a backyard ceremony 10 years ago.

Police said they had been called to the home at least 10 times in the last two years, citing Kiefer for offenses such as trespassing, disturbing the peace and being under the influence of methamphetamine.

About 1 a.m. Thursday, police said, Kiefer forced his way into the home, woke up his 10-year-old daughter and tried to force her to drink what police described as a caustic liquid.


“Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” Dana Kiefer screamed to police during the attack, according to a recording of her 911 call. “Hurry, get over here! He’s here again! He’s getting my daughter!”

The girl’s grandparents, Charles and Barbara Howlett, 66 and 63, came to the child’s assistance, but Kiefer attacked the couple with a homemade hatchet, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Police said Kiefer also attacked his ex-wife’s boyfriend, Mathew Dyer, 30, when he tried to wrest the hatchet from him.

Police said the grandfather grabbed a .38-caliber handgun and fired twice in Kiefer’s direction, both shots missing. Dyer then ran into a bedroom, got the shotgun and fired twice, hitting Kiefer once in the neck.


“It was a vicious attack,” Amormino said. “They had a right to defend themselves. If they didn’t, it could’ve been more tragic.”

Dyer and the grandparents were treated for cuts at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and released. The girl was uninjured and did not swallow any of the unidentified liquid.

According to a restraining order granted Oct. 16 -- five days after Kiefer showed up intoxicated at the Laguna Hills home and assaulted his former wife and her boyfriend -- Kiefer was under court order to stay away from his ex-wife, his daughter, his in-laws and the boyfriend.

Kiefer refused to attend the Oct. 16 hearing, and Superior Court Judge Barbara Tam Nomoto Schumann set a Nov. 4 mediation session. Dana Kiefer asked the court to force her former husband to attend a “certified batterer’s program.”


The court order lists many physical abuses. In one instance, Kiefer broke into the residence and assaulted Dyer, the boyfriend.

In another, Kiefer cut his former wife’s leg.

Last weekend, police said, Kiefer pushed his way into the home on Sunday night and slugged his former wife. Kiefer was arrested for domestic violence and violating the restraining order, Amormino said.

On Monday, police said, Kiefer posted $25,000 bail and was released from Orange County Jail.


One neighbor offered a contrasting view of Kiefer, recalling how he would pull into the Laguna Hills neighborhood in his Porsche and wait patiently for the chance to see his daughter.

“He loved her,” the neighbor said. “He always said good things about his daughter. He was a nice guy. I’m still in awe.”

The Kiefers had moved to San Antonio after marrying. They were divorced in 1998. Dana Kiefer, 30, returned to Orange County in 2000 so she could be near her parents, and bought a Dana Point dance studio. She recently sold the studio but continued dance instruction in San Juan Capistrano, friends said.

Neighbors said the grandparents were so terrified by Kiefer that Charles Howlett, a career Marine, recently bought the shotgun.


Gillim, the neighbor, said Howlett was worried for his family. "[He] had it under his bed for protection if Eric comes to attack them.”


Times staff writer H.G. Reza contributed to this report.