A Sunday afternoon gathering of two parents and their children turned deadly when sporadic gunfire that erupted in a sun-splashed Temecula golf course neighborhood left two adults and three teens dead.
The deaths, termed ‘a crime of murder and suicide’ by investigators, have brought widespread attention to Temecula and caused troubling questions to ripple through the community. Days later, questions of why and how continued to gnaw at Pete Rosati, who lives next to the Temeku Hills cul-de-sac residence where the killings occurred.
“It would be nice to have some closure, just to put my mind at ease,” Rosati said in an interview at his Iron Circle home on Tuesday.
Rosati recalled standing in his backyard when he heard a rapid volley of two or three shots. The gunfire, Rosati said, caused him to listen, wait and wonder.
About 20 minutes later, another neighbor breathlessly told a police dispatcher that she had heard three shots. In the six-minute 9-1-1 call, Christine Rios said she heard a woman moaning and noises that sounded like firecrackers. She said a vehicle – a truck – might have left the home after the noises.
Rios then told the dispatcher that she and her husband had spotted a body in the backyard next door.
Narissa Katherine Williams, 15, was alive at the residence when police arrived. She was rushed to Inland Valley Regional Medical Center in Wildomar, where she died about a few hours later.
In the backyard, the sole resident of the home, 45-year-old Jeffrey Blixt, who was separated from his second wife, was the first to be found dead at 5:56 p.m., according to the Riverside County coroner.
The man’s 17-year-old son, Matthew Blixt, was found next. Two minutes later, the body of Jeffrey Blixt’s 34-year-old girlfriend of a few months, Naomi Grangroth, was found in the yard nearby.
Inside the house, police found the body of Nikita Daniel Williams, 15, the twin sister of Narissa Williams. The girls, students at Great Oak High School in south Temecula, were Grangroth’s daughters.
Police did not immediately confirm a newspaper report indicating that Blixt’s daughter, also a teenager, had fled the home at the time of the shooting but was not injured. Investigators also have not disclosed the type or ownership of the gun found at the home or identified the killer in Temecula’s worst mass killing in more than a decade.
As police continued to probe the scene and collect evidence, family friends, community residents and students struggled to put together the pieces. Many of them were drawn to the home where the tragedy had unfolded. Some of them left balloons, flowers, teddy bears, poems and cards on the home’s doorstep.
Al Duarte, who described himself as a best friend of Jeffrey Blixt, drove from Corona to offer his help to Naomi Grangroth’s sister, whom he had hoped to find at the house.
It seems like just yesterday, he mused, that he was helping Naomi Grangroth move into her new home in Temecula’s wine country. His thoughts returning to the present, Duarte next pondered the sudden absence of his friend.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” said Duarte. “He was a great individual, always willing to help anybody.”
Duarte said he hadn’t detected any problems or sign of trouble while his friend divorced and launched a new relationship.
“All I know is that he loved his children,” Duarte said. “I thought he was headed in the right direction. He was really happy.”
Duarte said he had seen Blixt’s son once. He said the teen was quiet and kept to himself at that time.
Joanie C. Wdowiak said she learned of the death of her friend, Naomi Grangroth, and her daughters through media reports and by telephoning a mutual acquaintance.
Wdowiak said she worked with the 34-year-old single mother at Douglas E. Barnhart Inc., a San Diego-based construction-management firm, for a two-year period that ended in 2005.
“We both worked on the [company’s] Great Oak High School job site,” Wdowiak said in a telephone interview. “She was the project engineer and I was the office manager. We worked side by side for a long time. She was such a hard worker.”
Wdowiak said her friend likely did not have an inkling that the Iron Circle gathering could turn deadly.
“She was a single mom and if she thought [her daughters] were in any danger she would have not taken them there,” Wdowiak said.
She knew Grangroth had not lived with Blixt. She urged people in the community to avoid assessing blame before more facts are known.
“She was bubbly and she was an extrovert,” Wdowiak, a Temecula-area resident, said. “She was not shy and she was funny.”
Grangroth’s daughters enjoyed going to church with their mother, Wdowiak said. She recalled that her friend had described recent weeks as the happiest time of her life.
“The point is that she is gone. I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around this and it does not make sense that all three of them are gone,” Wdowiak said. “She was a good person. She will always be a good person and there are a lot of people who are going to miss her.”
Even though the victims were strangers to her, Janet Waters drove to the Iron Circle home to offer her help to any relatives of the deceased who might be there.
“I’ll do anything I can,” Waters, a Temecula resident, said Tuesday as she stood in the driveway of the home.
“There are people here who really care,” Waters said, nodding at the messages and other items that blanketed the home’s doorstep.
Kym Hardy and her son, Noah Smith, 8, came by to deliver a gift that the boy had picked and purchased in the wake of the deaths. After learning of the tragedy from a news program, Noah insisted on giving a gift to the girl who survived.
His mother held out two small wooden crosses he picked out from the store in their church.
“I hope the people go to heaven,” Noah said.
Similar thoughts echoed through Great Oak High School, where students at times gathered in groups Tuesday to remember the twin teens some of them knew and others didn’t.
“It’s very sad; I had a class last year with one of the twins,” said Katelyn Gutierrez, a ninth grade student at the school, where grief counseling was made available to those who asked for it.
“I was shocked when I heard about it. It touched me. It’s very sad,” said Taylor Fenior, a sophomore.
Ninth-grader Alita Bahn, who is herself a twin, said she learned of the tragedy over the school’s morning announcements.
“I used to see one of the twins between classes,” Bahn said. “I saw her on Friday and now she’s gone.”
Valley News editor Shannon Starr and reporters Peter Surowski and Kathy Zelasko contributed to this story.
A memorial service for Naomi Grangroth and Nikita and Narissa Williams will be held on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 11 a.m. The service will be at the New Covenant Fellowship Church, 38801 Calistoga Dr., Murrieta. A reception will follow.
Donations for the family can be made out to Brianna Ybarra and sent or delivered to the Douglas E. Barnhart Inc., main office, attention: Tami Barnhart-Reese, 10760 Thornmint Road, San Diego CA 92127, or brought to the memorial service.
If sending flowers, purple was Naomi’s favorite color and pink and black were the girls’ colors. Delivery of flowers should be arranged for the hours of 8 to 10 a.m. on Saturday, not before.