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Richard LABATT

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

   
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Domestic violence - His wife was starting a relationship with their neighbor
Number of victims: 4
Date of murder: August 19, 1999
Date of birth: 1972
Victims profile: His wife Trina Labatt, 26, both his sons Bradley, 9, and Cody, 5, and the neighbor Stephen La Franco, 35
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Sacramento, California, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day
 
 
 
 
 
 

Alarmed that his wife was starting a relationship with their neighbor, Richard shot his wife, both his sons, the neighbor, and then himself.

The tragedy unfolded on August 19, 1999 in a upscale suburb outside Sacramento. Three of the victims died at the scene. Stephen La Franco, the neighbor, survived until early the next morning.

Cody Labatt the 5-year-old son of the murderous father, remained alive until mid afternoon, when he stopped breathing. The rage that drove Labatt to familicide stemmed from the fact that his wife and their neighbor had begun a relationship after both marriages fell appart.

The La Francos and the Labatts both had separated in recent months, although the splits differed greatly, according to authorities and neighbors.

For La Franco, 35, a state correctional officer and bodybuilder, it was his second marriage. He stayed in the house on Laguna Pointe Way, while his wife moved out. At about the same time, the Labatt marriage next door was disintegrating, although with more bitterness.

Richard Labatt, 27, had been charged with domestic violence for slapping his 26-year-old wife during an argument at their home.

The quintuple murder-suicide was the largest single slaying case in Sacramento since the April 1991 siege of an area good guys! store that left six people dead.

 
 

Five dead in domestic violence murder-suicide

August 19, 1999

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - They bought their new suburban homes within days of each other in 1996, and in no time at all the two young families and their children became best of friends.

Stephen and Melissa La Franco and their young daughters were seen constantly with their next door neighbors, Richard and Trina Labatt and their two young boys.

"I would see them walk to Jack-in-the Box together some nights," said Mindy Kohler, who lived near both families in the Laguna area of Elk Grove. "These were not crazy people. These were not unordinary people. I know it sounds cliched, but they were just nice neighbors."

They also were apparently families in the midst of great turmoil, but the extent of the problems was unknown until Tuesday evening, when Richard Labatt shot his wife, both his sons and Stephen La Franco before killing himself.

Three of them died at the scene. La Franco survived until early Wednesday, when he was pronounced dead at the UC Davis Medical Center.

And 5-year-old Cody Labatt lingered until Wednesday afternoon, when he stopped breathing as Labatt's relatives were debating whether his life-support systems should be removed.

The rage that drove Labatt to his unspeakable crime evidently stemmed from the fact that his wife and La Franco had begun a relationship recently after both couple's marriages had faltered, neighbors and authorities said Wednesday.

The La Francos and the Labatts both had separated in recent months, although the splits differed greatly, according to interviews with Sacramento sheriff's officials, co-workers of the victims and neighbors.

For La Franco, a 35-year-old state correctional officer and bodybuilder, it was his second marriage, and the split with his wife was amicable, friends said. He stayed in the house, while his wife moved out.

At about the same time, the Labatt marriage next door was disintegrating, although with more bitterness than the neighbor's had. Richard Labatt, a tall, thin 27-year-old, had been charged with domestic violence for slapping his 26-year-old wife during an argument at their home on May 1.

That argument was sparked by Labatt's accusation that his wife was having an affair with a neighbor, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney's office.

Labatt was charged with a misdemeanor count of battery and a misdemeanor warrant for his arrest was issued on June 16. He was notified by letter, but deputies never tried to arrest him because his case was one of thousands of outstanding misdemeanor cases.

Labatt had moved out as the marriage fell apart and, over time, Trina Labatt began a relationship with her neighbor, Stephen La Franco.

The relationship "was going real good; it was the happiest I'd ever seen him," said Steve Faris, a fellow correctional officer who described La Franco, a Valley High graduate and officer at California State Prison, Sacramento, as his best friend.

"He said he had been married twice, and this was the first time he felt at home with somebody," Faris said. "He loved Missy a lot - they had two children together - but they'd grown apart."

Faris said he never heard La Franco mention Richard Labatt. Another friend, Jim Holcomb, knew La Franco through their participation in the National Guard and said there was no "love triangle" involved.

"All the parties had split up," Holcomb said. "There was no sneaking around about it."

But the split apparently was too much for Labatt, who began the nightmarish sequence of events shortly after 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

He pulled up on Laguna Pointe Way in his Mercedes convertible and parked behind Stephen La Franco's white Ford Explorer. Labatt got out of his car and walked up to the door of the house that was once his home carrying a licensed 9 mm pistol that a source said had been a "recent purchase."

When La Franco answered the door, Labatt shot him in the head.

"I heard Steve say, 'What's going on?"' said Kohler, who lived across the street. "I heard three shots - it sounded like firecrackers going off - and then I heard Trina saying, 'No.'"

After shooting La Franco, Labatt pushed into the house and shot his estranged wife in the head and the hip.

Then Labatt moved upstairs toward his sons' bedrooms. There he found 9-year-old Bradley and 5-year-old Cody, as well as two of La Franco's daughters, 8-year-old Samantha and 5-year-old Jessica.

Labatt ordered the two girls to leave, but Jessica was later able to tell Kohler what she heard as they fled the home.

According to sheriff's officials and what Jessica told Kohler, Labatt stood over his own sons holding his gun and told them to kneel down. He covered the backs of their heads with a pillow. Then he shot each of them.

Labatt then shot himself in the head. His body was found near that of his 9-year-old son.

By the time the killing had stopped, Jessica La Franco had made it outside and wandered over to Kohler's home, where Jessica told her, "Daddy's dead, Daddy's dead."

Kohler called 911 and went outside, where she found 8-year-old Samantha, then went into the Labatt house.

Inside, Kohler found La Franco with a large slit on his forehead. His eyes were closed, but he was still breathing, and Kohler said she cradled him in her arms and told him to hang on.

When she told him his children were safe, Kohler said, La Franco began sobbing. But he never regained consciousness and later died at UCDMC. Kohler could see Trina Labatt's body five feet away.

The quintuple murder-suicide was the largest single slaying case in Sacramento since the April 1991 siege of an area Good Guys store by gunman left six people dead.

It also is the worst crime of family violence in the area in memory, but hardly the only one.

Bee staff writers Ramon Coronado, Andy Furillo and M.S. Enkoji contributed to this report.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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