DEFIANCE, Ohio – A Vietnam veteran suspected of fatally shooting his wife, daughter and granddaughter before killing himself at their home was being treated for war-related disabilities and recently suffered a stroke, a veterans service officer said Friday.
The bodies of Robert Garza Sr., 68, and the three family members were discovered Thursday night by Garza’s son, who was checking on the four who were last seen Wednesday afternoon.
A handgun apparently used in the shootings was found at the house, Sheriff David Westrick said.
The house is surrounded by farmland a few miles from Defiance, about 47 miles northeast of Fort Wayne and 60 miles southwest of Toledo.
Mike Williams, who works with veterans in Defiance County, declined to specify the military service-related disabilities suffered by Garza.
Williams said he didn’t think Garza had filed for disability related to Agent Orange. Family members told investigators that Garza had expressed concerns about exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam, the sheriff said.
There was no immediate determination if health problems prompted the rampage, Westrick said.
Williams knew Garza as a client and friend who was proud of his Vietnam service. He said he hadn’t seen the retired factory worker since September but knew of no reason why he might become violent.
I knew he had issues, but if someone said he would have been capable of this, I’d say, No way,’ Williams said. I am just plain flabbergasted.
Officials identified the others shot as Garza’s wife, Christine Garza, 61; their daughter, Zoila Garza, 42; and a granddaughter, 15-year-old Rebecca Garza.
Westrick said two bodies were found in one room and two in another. He declined to be more specific about the scene or indicate how many times each was shot.
Family members gathered Friday at a nearby home. They declined to comment.
The sheriff said he knew the family, but not well, and said Robert Garza was a hardworking, law-abiding person who didn’t come to the attention of deputies.
Lindsey Poston, who lives down the road from the Garza house, said she hadn’t talked to the family much, but in the summer, she would see a boy and girl swimming in the above-ground pool or jumping on a trampoline behind the house.
She said Robert and Christine Garza had several children and had lived in the house for at least 20 years.