General Crime

* Sunnyvale murder suicide mother and her autistic son dead on Nectarine Ave.

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A mother shot and killed her 22-year-old son inside their Sunnyvale home Tuesday night before shooting herself, police said today. “It’s shocking. That kind of thing has never happened on this street before,” said Heather Jauch, a neighbor who said her family has owned a house on the block since 1955. Police responded to the single-family home in the 800 block of Nectarine Ave. at 7:45 p.m., Sunnyvale Public Safety Capt. Dave Verbrugge said.

Police have not released the name of the two victims pending the results of an autopsy this morning, but property records indicate the house is owned by Lester Hodgins, who Jauch said lived there with his wife, Elizabeth and son, George, who was autistic. Hodgins arrived home to discover the bodies of his wife and son, Verbrugge said, and the investigation led police to believe their deaths were a murder-suicide.

Lester and Elizabeth Hodgins are in their 50s and have lived in the neighborhood for five or six years, Jauch said. Lester has worked as a supervising park ranger responsible for Foothills Park in Palo Alto for at least 25 years, said Greg Betts, a director of the city of Palo Alto Community Services Department. “Lester’s been a colleague and a friend for more than 25 years, and his wife and son are wonderful.

Lester’s one of the most kind, compassionate, caring people you’ll ever meet,” Betts said. He said the staff at the community services department was reeling from the news but were still hoping to see Hodgins sometime today. Betts said Hodgins would bring his wife and son to visit Foothills Park several times a year. Jauch said Elizabeth primarily stayed at home caring for their son, whose autism left him only mildly functioning.

“I don’t know if she was feeling overwhelmed,” Jauch said. “He didn’t talk, he wasn’t communicative,” she said. “We would see them on occasion, they take walks in the neighborhood.” “They were always very warm and friendly, they’re great neighbors. I never would have thought anything like this would have happened,” Jauch said. She said that last weekend, the couple had a garage sale outside of their home, and that Elizabeth gave her a skirt that had belonged to her mother. “You don’t really think much of it, people are trying to clean out their stuff,” Jauch said. “They were really nice people, it’s very sad that this happened,” she said.

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