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Families grieve over stabbing deaths of wife, children

By Sara Sneath
Jan. 15, 2015 at 11:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 16, 2015 at 10:01 a.m.

Guillermo Rodriguez, left, Mario Rodriguez, and Juan Garza pay visit to the vigil set up by the Cumpean family for Dulce Cumpean-Camacho and her three children  Thursday in Port Lavaca. Mario Rodriguez said he's known Cumpean-Camacho since she was a little girl.

Guillermo Rodriguez, left, Mario Rodriguez, and Juan Garza pay visit to the vigil set up by the Cumpean family for Dulce Cumpean-Camacho and her three children Thursday in Port Lavaca. Mario Rodriguez said he's known Cumpean-Camacho since she was a little girl.

PORT LAVACA - Calhoun County Sheriff's deputies were called twice Sunday night to the residence of Jonathan Camacho and Dulce Cumpean-Camacho for child custody issues.

The horror that followed after deputies left resulted in the arrest of Jonathan Camacho, 23, of Port Lavaca, for the deaths of his wife and three young children.

When firefighters arrived at 4:42 a.m. Monday, the less than 400-square-foot tin structure where the couple lived was ablaze. Inside they found the bodies of Dulce Cumpean-Camacho, 23, and her three children: 4-year-old son, Zavier, 1-year-old daughter, Ciara, and 2-month-old daughter, Faith.

The Travis County Medical Examiner's Office conducted autopsies. Preliminary results indicate all four victims died of stab wounds, according to a news release Thursday from the Calhoun County Sheriff, George Aleman.

Until the night of the deaths, the family of five appeared to be a loving one. The couple was going through a dispute. But it wasn't violent, said Cumpean-Camacho's sister, Yesica Cumpean, 25.

"We knew (Jonathan) loved them. If we would have thought they weren't safe, we would have made him leave," she said Thursday night within the family compound where Cumpean-Camacho's charred home stands.

Divorce paperwork had not been filed, and no custody agreement is on file between the couple either in the county or district clerk's office.

The two calls to authorities made Sunday night - which the Victoria Advocate has asked for via an open records request - may be the only clue as to what lead to the death's of Cumpean-Camacho and her three young children.

The arrest affidavit, which is typically public record and would indicate why law enforcement had reason to believe Camacho committed the crime, was sealed for 30 days at the request of law enforcement, said District Judge Jack Marr.

"I'm not positive what the concern was, but I suspect it was so information couldn't get out to impair the investigation," Marr said.

A news conference at the Calhoun County Courthouse Thursday morning was similarly sterile: A Texas Ranger read a news release after which no questions were taken.

But for the family of the victims, the doors remained open Thursday. Grandmothers with homemade food, young women cradling babies and men in work boots came for the fourth night of novena, a Catholic tradition of joined prayer for the nine nights following a death.

Dozens joined around an altar with pictures of Cumpean-Camacho, Zavier, Ciara and Faith.

Together, they said the rosary, as children ran between legs and men talked around a fire pit outside.

On the other side of town, Camacho's family also grieved.

"This is not a dream. Nobody wants to wake up to this," said Camacho's mother, Jeanette Zapata. "I loved Dulce and my grand babies. My son did, too. This is a big loss for both families."

Camacho is in custody of the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office while receiving medical treatment. Once released from the hospital he will be moved to the Calhoun County jail.

Officials would not discuss the nature of his injuries.

His bond is set at $4 million, $1 million for the charge of murder of his wife and $1 million for each charge of capital murder of his children.

Camacho's cousin, Andrew Salas, 27, of Victoria, remembered how tenderly Camacho held his kids.

When the family car had issues, Camacho would bring the car to Salas to work on, always with the three little ones in tow, Salas said.

If one of the children cried, Camacho was quick to go to the child, even if it was one of Salas' kids.

"He was very fatherly," he said.

Salas said the Cumpean and Camacho families hadn't been in touch. But he said he hoped they could grieve together.

In response Thursday night, Yesica Cumpean looked toward the entrance to the family compound, off of U.S. Highway 87 about half a mile north of Port Lavaca.

"The gate's open," she said.


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