The house on Soledad Avenue is comfortably in sync with the Sonoran desert, landscaped with cholla, nopal and saguaro cactus and mesquite. But since Saturday, the family home of Arizona shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner has been swarmed by investigators and news media.
Loughner’s parents, Randy and Amy Loughner, have kept out of the public eye since their son was apprehended at the scene and even skipped their son’s first court appearance on Monday.
In their first public comments, the Loughner family released a one-paragraph statement Tuesday distributed by aides to their son’s public defender, Judy Clarke. The statement was distributed without comment:
“This is a very difficult time for us. We ask the media to respect our privacy. There are no words that can possibly express how we feel. We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don’t understand why this happened. It may not make any difference, but we wish that we could change the heinous events of Saturday. We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss. Thank you. The Loughner family.”
The Loughners’ withdrawal had been increasing in recent years, says next-door neighbor George Payan, 82, a retired copper-mine mechanic. Randy Loughner had three 1970s-era cars he had been refurbishing, Payan said on Tuesday. The elder Loughner also worked installing carpets and helping to build pool decks.
Years ago, Payan said, mechanics gave the two neighbors in the working-class Orangewood Estates, north of Tucson, a common topic to discuss, but they grew apart. “It got so there was less and less interaction,” he said.
Payan said he watched Jared Loughner grow up. Years ago, his great-grandson would play with Loughner, and more recently Payan said he would see Jared Loughner walking his dog or driving through the neighborhood.
He said he had no knowledge of Jared Loughner’s behavior through the years.
“I’ve learned more about his behavior reading the newspaper than anything I’d seen since he was a little boy,” Payan said. “His behavior this weekend, he didn’t display any of that in the neighborhood.”
Payan said he remembered seeing reports of the shooting on television. Later, he saw some sheriff’s deputies on the block. Then a neighbor called and asked what Randy’s son’s name was. Payan said, “Jared.” “He just shot some people,” the neighbor told Payan.
“Things like this happen, but it’s always somewhere else. When it’s in your own neighborhood, it’s pretty hard to digest,” Payan said. “Will people start to learn by this and start treating each other the way they should?”
Amy Loughner is a parks manager for Pima County, said Gwyn Hatcher, human-relations director for the county agency. Loughner has worked for the agency since March 1987, Hatcher said, rising through the agency to her current post, earning $25.69 an hour.
Amy Loughner, whom neighbors say it the main breadwinner for the family, manages Agua Caliente Park, in northeastern Tucson. She is currently on leave, Hatcher said.
On a cool and crisp Tuesday morning, many of the neighbors walked their dogs near the closed house.
Leanna Magelli, 37, said she and her family had owned a house on the street for 37 years, 17 years longer than the Loughners have lived in the neighborhood. When her father died, the Loughners were among the first to send condolences. On Tuesday, Magelli brought a handwritten card from her mother.
“They have always been there for us when we’ve had had tragedy in our family,” Magelli said.