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Motive in Shootings Is a Mystery

Times Staff Writer

Authorities were exploring Sunday whether the mental state of an Aliso Viejo man played a role in his shooting rampage Saturday but said they might never be able to establish a motive.

Orange County sheriff’s officials said they were still trying to determine why William Freund, 19, put on a dark cape and paintball mask and killed two neighbors -- a young woman and her father and tried to shoot others before turning his 12-gauge shotgun on himself. Authorities said that, from what they had learned so far, it did not appear that Freund was under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the shootings. They are not ruling out those possibilities, but toxicology tests will take weeks to complete.

Autopsies completed Sunday on Freund and his victims revealed little more than what investigators already knew about the cause of death.

“With the gunman dead, we may never be able to establish a motive,” said sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino. “Of course, only he knows that. We’ll try investigative procedures. Again, it’s going to be difficult. Once we look into his mental health, that may provide us some insight into what happened.”

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Authorities said they could find no relationships or other links between Freund and the victims beyond that they were neighbors in California Summit, a large subdivision of modest homes near Soka University of America. Freund and the woman he killed, Christina Smith, 22, attended Aliso Niguel High School, although she graduated two years before he did.

The terror began about 9 a.m. Saturday, when Freund left his house on Sunbury Drive, authorities said. He was wearing a cape and a dark paintball mask with a clear face shield and was carrying a 12-gauge Remington shotgun that can hold eight rounds, they said.

He drove his car around the corner to Somerset Drive and entered the Smith home. Inside, Freund killed Christina Smith and her father, Vernon Smith, 45. Christina’s 20-year-old brother escaped unhurt through the back door after hearing gunfire, authorities said. Their mother was at work.

Freund emerged and started shooting at a house across the street, breaking a window and slightly injuring a man. Freund then tried to shoot at a neighbor who lived to the left of the Smiths and had come outside to see what was going on, but the shotgun wouldn’t fire.

Then Freund walked slowly back to his own house, where he shot himself.

Freund had been living with his parents, who own a printing business, since graduating from Aliso Niguel High in 2003. He was taking classes at a trade school in Los Angeles and was not working, authorities said.

His parents, who could not be reached Sunday, told investigators their son had no close friends. They also said they did not know he owned a shotgun, authorities said. Investigators were trying to trace where Freund bought the gun and whether he had purchased it legally.

The Smiths were described by neighbors as a close-knit, friendly and social family. Christina Smith worked at a Kohl’s department store and enjoyed doing arts and crafts with her mother, who works at a local party supply store, neighbors told investigators.

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For the Halloween season, they decorated their front porch with miniature ghosts, goblins, witches and skeletons.

On Sunday morning, a commercial cleaning crew worked inside the Smiths’ home, wiping up grim details left behind after investigators were done sweeping for evidence.

Later in the day, friends and neighbors stopped by the Smiths’ home and left candles and flowers to pay their respects.


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