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Life Hasn’t Gotten Easier, Gunman’s Widow Says

July 17, 1985 GMT

SPRING VALLEY, Calif. (AP) _ In the year since her husband committed the worst single-day mass murder by a lone gunman in U.S. history, Etna Huberty and her two daughters have moved twice and the girls were enrolled in school under assumed names.

″No one is going to help us,″ Mrs. Huberty said. ″Our name is not going to help us.″

The widow of James Oliver Huberty said attention from the media, occasional death threats and classmates’ taunts toward her daughters are constant reminders of her husband’s shooting spree on July 18, 1984, at a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro. He shot and killed 21 people before he was slain by a police sharpshooter.


Despite a volatile relationship during a 19-year marriage, Mrs. Huberty said recently that she misses her husband. On more than one occasion, James Huberty had threatened his wife and daughters with a loaded gun.

Mrs. Huberty defends her husband as a hard-working man who happened to be down on his luck and snapped. He had lost his job as a security guard shortly before the rampage.

On the day of the massacre, he had donned combat fatigues and armed himself with three guns before kissing his wife goodbye and telling her he was ″going hunting humans.″

At the time, Mrs. Huberty said, she didn’t take her husband’s words seriously.

Last month, Mrs. Huberty and her daughters, Zelia, 13, and Cassandra, 11, moved to this eastern San Diego County community from Chula Vista, where they had moved shortly after the massacre.

Mrs. Huberty said she has had little contact with people in San Ysidro, but remains bitter toward school officials in the border community for not permitting her daughters to re-enroll there after the killings. The girls had gone to school with several of their father’s young victims.

Mrs. Huberty said she knew some of their parents, but hasn’t contacted them: ″What can you say? Can you raise the dead?″

As for San Ysidro, Mrs. Huberty said she doesn’t worry whether residents harbor hostile feelings toward her.

″I really don’t know what they think and I really don’t care,″ Mrs. Huberty said. ″I have a very simple philosophy. People live because they don’t die, and some days I say they live because they’re not lucky enough to die.″

While the family was in Chula Vista, Mrs. Huberty’s daughters attended school under assumed names. Even so, she said, some people recognized them.

″(Zelia’s) picture wasn’t in the yearbook. I don’t know why,″ Mrs. Huberty said, adding that the school also didn’t let her daughter attend a band competition.

One of Zelia’s classmates taunted her, Mrs. Huberty said.

″He said, ‘I’ll get your gun,’ or something like that. She kicked him twice. He doubled up and she told him if he went to the office to tell, he’d get it worse,″ Mrs. Huberty said.

The daughters were interviewed and pictured in the Home Box Office production ″Acts of Violence,″ which appeared on cable earlier this year.

Mrs. Huberty, who is not employed, said she supports her family with income from rental property in Ohio and monthly Social Security survivor’s benefits of $1,203.

She had hoped to sell the book and motion picture rights to her life story. But a deal fell through this year when the project was dropped in face of widespread opposition from San Ysidro residents.

Mrs. Huberty said other deals are possible but she refused to elaborate.