INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Police were nearly certain Sunday that a man found dead at the property where five members of a Southern California family were shot – two fatally – was the killer because he was wearing body armor, clutching a handgun and had a bullet hole in his head.
The loaded handgun was a .38 caliber revolver registered to 55-year-old Desmond John Moses, who lived in a bungalow set ablaze before the deadly shooting spree at his neighbor's house in Inglewood, said Police Lt. James Madia.
The body, burned beyond recognition, was found inside the bungalow late Saturday and an autopsy will determine whether it is Moses.
The dead man had "what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the head," wore body armor and carried additional ammunition in his pockets, a police statement said.
While police couldn't conclude that the body is that of Moses until the autopsy is concluded, "the evidence suggests this is the case," the statement added.
The shooting rampage before dawn Saturday killed 33-year-old Filimon Lamas and his 4-year-old son. The father was shielding three of his children when he was shot, Police Chief Mark Fronterotta said. Lamas' 28-year-old wife, Gloria Jiminez, was shot in both legs but managed to carry the wounded 4-year-old out of the house.
Paramedics found her collapsed on the street. The child, who suffered a bullet wound to the head, died at a hospital.
Investigators believe Moses set his own home ablaze before entering the family's home around 4 a.m. wearing a dark cap and a white painter's mask.
Authorities said he fired 10 times. In addition to the deaths of the father and child and injury to the mother, a 7-year-old girl was wounded in the chest and a 6-year-old boy suffered a bullet wound in the pelvis. An 8-year-old boy escaped injury.
The mother and daughter remained hospitalized in stable condition, Madia said. The 6-year-old boy was released.
Relatives said Lamas and Jiminez were high school sweethearts who recently got approval for a home loan, and were looking to buy a bigger house for their tight-knit family.
Authorities launched a manhunt and evacuated surrounding homes after the shooting rampage, but it wasn't until hours later that they found the charred body because it was hidden under layers of debris.
"He was kind of a hoarder or pack rat," Madia said.
Moses lived in the bungalow for 17 years, while the family lived in the front house for 8 years, he said.
Fronterotta would not discuss the nature of the dispute, but the property owner told the Los Angeles Times that Moses had been fighting an eviction notice and recently lost his case in court.
A woman who knew the family, Judy Castellanos, told the Times that the suspect was reclusive and would not let anyone look inside his home.
"He had been asked to leave by the end of this month," she told the newspaper.