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Deputy arrived at San Clemente home just before mass killing, heard shots

December 17, 2009 | 12:10 pm

Catherine Fontaine, 4 and Julia Fontaine, 2

An Orange County sheriff’s deputy came to a San Clemente residence just minutes before a woman, her two young daughters and her mother died in an apparent murder-suicide on Monday, authorities said today.

The Sheriff’s Department received a call about a family disturbance in the upscale Talega community Monday afternoon, said spokesman Jim Amormino.

The call was made by Kevin Herbert, who had let his friend and her family from Houston stay with them to attend an Orange County custody hearing, Amormino said.

Earlier that day, Elizabeth Fontaine, 38, had found out during the hearing that custody of her two daughters would be given to an aunt, and she was instructed to return to court the next day, according to court records.

“Something raised a red flag" to Herbert, Amormino said. “He was concerned.”

A deputy responded and pulled up to the house. She saw the grandmother, Bonnie Hoult, standing on the curb, holding hands with a small child, Amormino said.

When Hoult saw the deputy, she walked briskly toward the open garage, and the deputy followed, Amormino said. Hoult walked into the house and tried to shut a door, when the deputy was able to put her foot through the crack. But Hoult was able to push the foot out of the way and locked the door.

Seconds later, the deputy heard gunshots.

Investigators found the bodies of Hoult, 67, Fontaine and her daughters, Catherine, 4, and Julia, 2, in a hallway on the second floor. A .357-caliber revolver registered to Hoult was recovered at the scene, but authorities said it’s unclear who fired the shots. Gunpowder was found on both of the women’s hands, Amormino said.

When the women fell to the floor, their hands were touching, transferring the residue, he said. Sheriff’s officials are conducting forensic tests, including fingerprints and DNA, but the results have not yet returned.

“We have no definitive answer to who fired the gun,” Amormino said. “Anything is pure speculation because we do not have any of the scientific evidence back yet.”

Hoult purchased the gun a year ago when they were living in Orange County, Amormino said. In the meantime, she and her daughter had moved to Houston. Fontaine’s car was kept in Orange County, and the gun may have been stored in the car, Amormino said.

--My-Thuan Tran

Photo: Catherine Fontaine, 4 and Julia Fontaine, 2. Credit: Courtesy John York, via KTLA News

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