Sunnyvale Killings Called Murder-Suicide: Neighbor

Father reportedly discovered the bodies when he returned from work.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Stephanie Chuang
    House on 800 block of Nectarine Ave. where tragic discovery of two bodies was made Tuesday night.

    Two bodies found inside a Sunnyvale home were found shot to death early Wednesday morning. A neighbor told NBC Bay Area that police told him it was a murder-suicide.

    A neighbor, Charles Tovar, said that police talked to him last night, telling him it was a murder-suicide involving a mother in her 50s and her son, who was in his 20s and autistic, according to Tovar.

    Police received the report of two people shot inside the home at around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday. The father and husband reportedly discovered the bodies when he arrived home from work.

    Police reportedly believe the mother shot her son. Early reports suggested that the mother was frustrated with trying to deal with her son's autism.

    The boy George Hodgins, 22, had attended Morgan Autism Center in San Jose since he was 6-years-old.

    The executive director, Jennifer Sullivan, described him as a delightful, easy going young man, who was non-verbal.

    She said the staff is devastated and the center is offering counseling to the staff and talking one-on-one with people who may have been impacted.

    Sullivan said his mother pulled him out of the program in December deciding she did not want him to transition into the adult program.

    But she never complained about being overwhelmed but Sullivan said she wishes she had so the center could have helped.

    The difficulty of caring for an autistic person entering adulthood is not an uncommon cause of stress.

    "It's simply tragic and horrifying to think about the state of mind of the parent faced with these daunting dilemmas in trying to handle her son," Kurt Ohlfs, the executive director of the Pacific Autism Center, said. "She saw no support, no other option than to take her own life and the life of her son."

    Police have not released the name of the two victims pending the results of an autopsy, but property records indicate the house is owned by Lester Hodgins, who Jauch said lived there with his wife, Elizabeth and son, George, who was autistic.

    Lester and Elizabeth Hodgins are in their 50s and have lived in the neighborhood for five or six years, Jauch said.

    Lester has worked as a supervising park ranger responsible for Foothills Park in Palo Alto for at least 25 years, said Greg Betts, a director of the city of Palo Alto Community Services Department.
          
    "Lester's been a colleague and a friend for more than 25 years, and his wife and son are wonderful. Lester's one of the most kind, compassionate, caring people you'll ever meet," Betts said.

    He said the staff at the community services department was reeling from the news but were still hoping to see Hodgins sometime.      

    Betts said Hodgins would bring his wife and son to visit Foothills Park several times a year.

    Jauch said Elizabeth primarily stayed at home caring for their son, whose autism left him only mildly functioning.

    "I don't know if she was feeling overwhelmed," Jauch said. "He didn't talk, he wasn't communicative," she said. "We would see them on occasion, they take walks in the neighborhood."

    "They were always very warm and friendly, they're great neighbors. I never would have thought anything like this would have happened," Jauch said.

    She said that last weekend, the couple had a garage sale outside of their home, and that Elizabeth gave her a skirt that had belonged to her mother.

    "You don't really think much of it, people are trying to clean out their stuff," Jauch said.

    "They were really nice people, it's very sad that this happened," she said.

    Bay City News contributed to this report.