By JOSE PAGLIERY, LUISA YANEZ and ROBERT SAMUELS
The Miami Herald
A Miami man spurned by his estranged wife’s affair with a younger man intruded on a party early Sunday and killed her, the woman’s daughter, grandmother and boyfriend. Before cops could catch up to him, police said, he set his home and truck on fire, then shot himself.
“Unfortunately, we have five people dead as a result of a domestic dispute,” said Kenia Alfonso, a Miami police spokeswoman.
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Detectives on Sunday afternoon were piecing together the carnage of what marked the second high-profile murder-suicide in three weeks in Miami-Dade County. Last month, a South Miami-Dade man killed his wife and two teenage daughters before killing himself.
In Sunday’s incident, police have not identified the shooter nor the victims, but neighbors told The Miami Herald that the shooter was Guillermo Lopez, 49,and his estranged wife, Lazara Mendez, 50. The couple, according to Miami-Dade County records, married in 2005. Neighbors said they separated about a month ago.
The shooting began shortly after midnight Sunday when Lopez barged into a party at a duplex near Coral Gables. Fifteen family members and friends had gathered to celebrate the 27th birthday of the male victim, according to Miami homicide detective Sgt. Ervens Ford.
A shouting match erupted between the husband and wife, with the husband blaming some of the party’s attendants for his wife leaving him, Ford said. He trapped the guests in a narrow passageway near the backyard, neighbors say.
From behind the duplex at the 2852 SW 38th Ct., neighbor Santos Estrada said he heard a woman shouting, “You’re crazy!” and “What are you doing here?”
A man told the woman to shut up, said Estrada, who then heard eight to 10 shots fired. Then a pause, followed by the sound of more bullets. A video recorded by another neighbor captured the sound of 27 gunshots in all.
“There was blood all over the back and in the living room,” said Estrada, who could see the living room from his house.
The other guests, including a pregnant woman, ran for their lives, yelling for someone to call 911. They ran past Juan Sosa, who was walking his bull terrier Tito.
“I got behind a tree and ducked,” Sosa said.
A neighbor took the pregnant woman to Coral Gables Hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries.
Lopez followed soon after, Sosa said. He jumped into a 2006 red Ford Tacoma parked at the end of the block and drove off.
Lopez sped to his duplex in Little Havana. There, he set his truck on fire. And then, his house. As the place burned, he shot himself.
“The fire was intentionally set,” said Miami Fire-Rescue spokesman Lt. Ignatius Carroll. Propane and gas tanks had been strategically placed inside the home to cause severe damage, he said. A gasoline tank also was found inside the truck.
“The truck [was on fire] first and no one wanted to go near it because we were afraid it was going to explode, like in the movies,” said Janseen Almodovar, who lives across the street.
A family living next door had to be evacuated out of fear the fire would spread.
On Sunday, detectives worked two grim crime scenes.
At the home where four victims were found, signs of celebration were still visible. A carved roasted pig, moros and Heineken beer were on the back lawn. Green cones to mark shell casings surrounded the remnants of the party.
At the home of the shooter, the driver’s side door on the red Tacoma was still open and parked in front of the man’s ivory duplex. The home was charred inside and out.
The alleged gunman had lived in the one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment for five years, Abel Loredo, the building landlord, told The Associated Press. He said the tenant had moved from Cuba about a decade ago — and had worked as a cook and an electrician.
“No one really knows him,” said Marilyn Rivero, 24, who lives nearby. “Sometimes I wave to him when he’s outside.”
Mendez worked as a cashier at Habana Vieja, a popular Cuban restaurant on Coral Way, according to the manager, who declined to be identified.
On Sunday, the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office sent two vans to take away the victims from both crime scenes.
This latest murder-suicide comes less than a month after a man opened fire on his family and another man attempted to kill a friend inside a Wal-Mart.
On February 25, Pablo Amador, a piano teacher and father of four, killed his wife, two daughters and then himself with a gun. On March 4, George Sheppard shot an acquaintance, Shenel Gibbs, at a Florida City Wal-Mart and then killed himself. Gibbs survived.
A recent study by the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center found that Florida and Texas top the list of states with the most number of murder-suicides. They recorded 24 murder-suicides in each state during a six-month period in 2007.
— Miami Herald staff writer Jennifer Lebovich contributed to this report.