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Man kills wife, 3 children, himself

Times Staff Writers

A Yorba Linda man killed his wife and three of his children late Saturday night before turning the shotgun on himself in a small condominium across the street from the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace, police said Sunday.

A 14-year-old stepson of the man was also shot but was expected to survive.

Police said they did not know the motive for the attacks. Before he underwent surgery, the stepson was not able to explain what started the rampage.

“We believe this was a domestic violence situation and a murder-suicide,” Lt. Jack Conklin of the Brea Police Department said outside the home. Brea police, which patrols Yorba Linda, are investigating the killings.

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The gunman was identified as Orland Cho, 41. Also killed were his wife, Maricel, 39; daughters Nicole, 9, and Kathleen, 8; and son Christopher, 5. The stepson was identified as Ian Mercado.

Police said a neighbor called emergency services about 11 p.m. to report gunshots.

About two minutes later, Ian Mercado called 911 as well.

Police found Maricel Cho on the doorstep. The others were inside the home, the two girls in one bedroom, but police did not say where the boy was found.

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The father was in another bedroom with the shotgun under his body.

Based on the shell casings found at the scene, police believe Orland Cho shot each victim one time.

The shooting came as a shock in Yorba Linda, a normally quiet community in northeast Orange County best known as President Nixon’s birthplace. Police noted the city rarely records a single homicide in a year, let alone five deaths in a single incident.

Little could be learned Sunday about the Chos. The website classmates.com said Orland Cho graduated from Morningside High School in Inglewood in 1983. A sister who lives in Torrance was reached by telephone but declined to comment.

Orland Cho had a handful of brushes with law enforcement, Los Angeles County and Orange County court records show, but details of the cases could not be immediately learned. In 1994, he was charged with fraud and possessing a gun whose identifying marks had been removed, but both cases were dismissed.

He was charged with speeding and driving under the influence in 1995; he was convicted on the speeding charge but the DUI case was dismissed. In 2004, Orange County’s Department of Child Support Services filed a legal action against him to enforce “parental obligations.” The outcome was unclear.

Brea police said they had no record of any contact with Cho or of calls to the house.

Property records show the Chos bought the home in June 2006. Neighbors said there were no outward signs of strife. Reggie Straughter, who lives two doors down and was the first to call 911, said he talked with Orland Cho almost weekly as he stood outside to smoke and said Cho recently talked of giving his Mercedes-Benz to his son as soon as he was old enough to drive it.

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“He was a no-nonsense kind of guy,” Straughter said. “But he was nice.”

Several neighbors said they heard loud banging noises Saturday night and at first assumed it was a car crash along busy Yorba Linda Boulevard.

But Straughter, who was watching television with his wife, said he called 911 after he heard more loud bangs and saw the Chos’ front screen door ajar when he went outside to investigate.

Another neighbor, Richard Harris, said Ian Mercado used to come to his house to play video games with his children.

Darnell Sherman, a social worker for Los Angeles County who lives in the neighborhood, stopped Sunday to place a bouquet near the Cho home.

“My heart just went out to them,” he said. “I heard that several children were killed. I work with children, and this made me really sad.”

christian.berthelsen@ latimes.com

amanda.covarrubias@ latimes.com

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Times researcher John L. Jackson contributed to this report.


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