Los Angeles – In late January 2010, a man fatally shot himself, his wife, and their five young children: Brittney, 8; twins Jaszmin and Jassely, 5; and twins Benjamin and Christian, ages 2 years and 4 months. Before the killings, Ervin Antonio Lupoe faxed a note to a television station claiming him and his wife were fired from their hospital jobs and planned the killings together, as an escape for the whole family.
The station called the police after receiving the fax and a police dispatcher received a call from a man stating, “I’ve just returned home and my whole family’s been shot.” The police believe the man was Ervin. Officers rushed to the home around 8:30 a.m., minutes after the killings, only to smell gun powder lingering in the air.
The fax alleged that Ervin’s wife, Ana Lupoe, helped plan the killings of the family but police Lt. John Romero said Ervin was the suspect; a revolver was found next to his body. Ana’s body was found in an upstairs bedroom with the bodies of the couple’s twin 2-year-old boys. The bodies of an 8-year-old girl and twin 5-year-old girls were found alongside Ervin Lupoe’s in another bedroom.
Ervin removed three of his children from school a week and a half prior; the school prinicipal said that they were moving to Kansas.
Kaiser Permanente Medical Center West Los Angeles released a statement confirming both Lupoe and his wife had worked there; both were medical technicians.
The letter indicated that Lupoe and his wife had been under investigation for misrepresenting their employment to an outside agency in order to obtain childcare. Ervin alleged that an administrator told the couple on December 23 that “You should have not even bothered to come to work today, you should have blown your brains out.” The couple complained to human resources and were offered an apology. However, they were fired two days later.
In his fax, Ervin wrote: ” They did nothing to the manager who stated such and did not attempt to assist us in the matter, knowing we have no job and five children under 8 years with no place to go. So here we are.”
In a statement, the hospital said it was “saddened by the despair in Mr. Lupoe’s letter faxed to the media, but we are confident that no one told him to take his own life or the lives of his family.”
“After a horrendous ordeal, my wife felt it better to end our lives; and why leave our children in someone else’s hands? We have no job and 5 children under 8 years with no place to go. So here we are,” wrote Lupoe.
One news outlet reported Lupoe was $600,000 in debt.
The letter concluded with, “Oh lord, my God. Is there no hope for a widow’s son?”
“Today our worst fear was realized,” said police Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner. “It’s just not a solution. There’s just so many ways you find alternatives to doing something so horrific and drastic as this.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30,000 people kill themselves each year. The CDC notes that there was a job loss or financial hardship present in a significant number of cases. Researchers say that unemployment alone does not cause suicide, but can act as a stresser.
The loss of a job combined with financial uncertainty, loss of retirement savings, stress of overdue bills or debt, and mortgage or rent payments can leave the individual feeling that suicide is the only way out. For some, this may involve taking one’s family with them.
Several studies have found that suicide and domestic violence increase during unemployment. A 1998 study in the British Medical Journal found “the link between suicide and unemployment is more powerful that other socio-economic measures.”
Unemployment can become harder to deal with when other stressers, such as losing the family’s house and loss of savings, are present. Economic turmoil may also lead to more frequent abuse and increasingly violent abuse when domestic violence already exists.
Jacquelyn Campbell at John Hopkins University School of Nursing found in 2003 that unemployment is the single strongest predictor in cases where men murder their wives. The study, published in American Journal of Public Health, stated that an abuser’s lack of a job increased the risk of murder.
The abuser’s access to a firearm increased the risk to more than five times, and threats to kill her and threats with a weapon also were strongly associated with homicide after taking the other factors into account.
“In the United States, women are killed by intimate partners more often than by any other type of perpetrator, with the majority of these murders involving prior physical abuse,” said Campbell.
Roughly 90% of people who commit suicide have some form of untreated mental illness which compounds their feelings of hopelessness and depression. Financial problems and job loss can be triggers, especially for men, reported the Association for Suicide Prevention.
“It creates a lot of anxiety,” said Mary Jane Landrock, a social worker at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. “People start feeling hopeless, or that their life is out of control. They feel trapped, like there’s no way out.
“Most people have no idea how much structure going to work provides to your day,” she said. “You go to work, typically where your friends are. Being laid off can be very shameful for people, a lot of anger involved.”