It was a mystery that lingered for months: five bodies found in a fire-gutted home set amidst orchards and vineyards in semirural Temecula.
The Aug. 29 fire was suspicious but there was little clue as to the fates of the victims, all of them residents of an adult day-care facility for the developmentally disabled.
Authorities now say the deaths appear to have been the result of a quadruple murder followed by a suicide.
A statement released by Riverside County sheriff’s officials Monday said that four of the five men who died inside the facility suffered gunshot wounds and that the fire appeared to be arson. Authorities that did not identify which victim was the alleged gunman,
All five were residents of the facility known as the Renee Jennex Small Family Home, which served severely disabled adults.
The dead were identified as James Jennex, 50, the facility’s operator; Milford Battison, 37; Richard Driskill, 37; Jared Prudhomme, 26; and Miguel Ferreyra, 31.
The property had been licensed to care for four developmentally disabled people since 2003, according to California Department of Social Services records. The facility was inspected in 2011, 2012 and most recently, in November 2015. “No deficiencies were observed” at the time of the inspections, according to records.
According to the most recent inspection report, the facility was outfitted with smoke detectors and was conducting monthly disaster drills with its patients.
The Renee Jennex facility served some of the most severely disabled individuals in the state — those with “deficits in self-help skills, and/or severe impairment in physical coordination and mobility, and/or severely disruptive or self-injurious behavior,” according to state records.
Clients lived in a small, three-bedroom house that sat next to a larger, two-story home on an extensive horse property surrounded by barbed wire on rolling hills dotted with vineyards and orchards.
In interviews after the fire, a number of neighbors said that they had no idea that such a facility was in the area and that they saw only the owner or his wife outside.
Since 2011, the home has received nearly $900,000 through the Inland Regional Center, a nonprofit agency that is reimbursed by the state for providing services to the developmentally disabled, said Nancy Lungren, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Developmental Services.
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Times staff writers Paloma Esquivel and Ben Poston contributed to this report.