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Bay City mourns 4 children killed by father

By adriana_acosta
Dec. 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Updated Dec. 2, 2011 at 6:02 a.m.

Jason Baldridge, 17, pays his respects to the shooting victims during a candlelight vigil at the scene of the shooting in Bay City on Thursday, Dec. 1. Baldridge often saw Laura Gonzalez and her children while shopping at H-E-B.

BAY CITY - Four children who were shot Wednesday by their father have all died.

Their mother, also shot by the same man, was in critical condition Thursday night at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston.

A 2-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother died in a Houston hospital about 2:25 p.m. Thursday.

Their brothers, ages 3 and 5, died Wednesday night in a Houston hospital, said Lt. Andrew Lewis, spokesman for Bay City Police Department.

The father, Jose Avila, 24, fatally shot himself after killing his children, Lewis said.

Avila shot each of the children in the head after he shot his wife three times.

The shooting began inside the mobile home in the 2700 block of 10th Street where the family had lived for two years.

Avila and his wife, Laura Gonzalez, 24, argued before the shooting, police said. He shot Gonzalez twice while inside the home and a third time in the yard after she tried to flee for help.

He then turned the small handgun on three of the children.

The fourth child - the 2 year old - was shot while inside his truck just before he shot himself, Lewis said.

The couple, who had been married for seven years, had separated in late November after police investigated a family disturbance - an assault and family violence at the home. Gonzalez made the report on Nov. 20.

"The officer who responded to the assault took the mother to the Matagorda County Women's Crisis Center," Lewis said.

Gonzalez refused to file charges against her husband.

"As a community we must understand that an offender is most likely to kill a victim when the victim attempts to leave. The community as a whole needs to ensure a safety net when family members need to leave an abusive home," said Eugene Davis, executive director of the Matagorda County Women's Crisis Center.

Davis could not comment about the specifics of the case because of confidentiality.

Juan Elizondo, a friend of the family, said he was shocked to hear the news.

His daughter, who witnessed the shooting, said Avila pointed the gun at her as she was walking home from school.

Elizondo said after Gonzalez was shot, she ran outside asking for someone to call 911.

When Elizondo's 12-year-old daughter tried to hand the phone to Gonzalez, he said, Avila pointed the gun at his daughter.

Elizondo said Gonzalez had no family in Bay City and was from Guadalajara, Mexico.

He said the couple was having problems and that he would beat her.

"She had a black eye once," he said.

Elizondo thinks Avila acted out of fear when he shot the family.

"He had no papers and he was probably afraid if she pressed charges against him he would be deported," he said.

Days after the November assault report, Elizondo said Avila went to the schools looking for the children and called her in hopes she would return to him.

"She probably went back to him because she wanted someone to take care of her children," he said.

But he was very controlling, Elizondo said.

Local residents gathered at the family's mobile home Wednesday night and throughout the day Thursday, lighting candles and leaving balloons and stuffed animals in the front yard.

A candlelight vigil is planned, details of which have not been released.

"As a parent, you always worry about them getting hit by a car when walking home from school, but you never imagine they would be a witness to all this," Elizondo said.

Cherry Elementary School is about two blocks from the home.

Avila recently lost his job at H-E-B in West Columbia, Elizondo said. Gonzalez works at La Casona Mexican restaurant in Bay city. She also works as a housekeeper at a local motel.

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