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Calif. Man Left Two Notes Before Murders

December 9, 2003

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) _ A man on the verge of separating from his wife left a suicide letter near his front door and sent another note to a relative days before killing his wife and three children, then turning the gun on himself.

Police said Monday that Todd Vernon’s relative in Southern California received a suicide note in the mail Saturday morning. The letter prompted the relative to call another family member, who immediately called police.

When police arrived at Vernon’s rented house, they found Vernon, 37, and his 39-year-old wife lying dead next to each other in their bed. Vernon was holding a .357-caliber revolver.

Down the hall, police found Vernon’s 10-year-old twin boys, Matthew and Robert, dead in their bunk beds. In another bedroom, they found Vernon’s 12-year-old daughter, Amber, dead in her bed.

``The suicide note was on the first floor, as soon as you entered the door,″ said Santa Clara Police Sergeant Kurt Clarke. ``From what it looks like, Todd wanted us to find the note.″

Clarke said the suicide letters were handwritten, and in both Vernon stated that he was taking ``full responsibility″ for the murders.

The note sent to a relative was different from the one left near the door, Clarke said. But he wouldn’t provide more details about the letters or the condition of the victims’ bodies.

The children’s biological mother, who lives in Buena Park, shared custody of the children with Vernon and his second wife, Nadine.

``I don’t want them to relive this in the media,″ Clarke said at a news conference.

According to neighbors and relatives questioned by police, Todd and Nadine Vernon, who had matching motorcycles and took frequent family vacations, had been discussing a separation.

Clarke was one of the first to arrive on the crime scene Saturday. It was the region’s third murder-suicide in less than two years.

``People marry and divorce, but they don’t kill each other _ that’s not normal,″ he said. ``I can’t say that this is a sign of a trend. For whatever reason he did what he did, and we will never know why.″

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