Father Missing After Two Children Found Dead in Calif. Home
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- The father of two slain children remained missing Friday, and police believed he was in Santa Cruz County, possibly near the tiny coastal community of Davenport.
Authorities briefly closed coastal Highway 1 near Davenport on Friday morning, after they found the 1987 Ford Taurus of Jose Jesus Zacarias. The 38-year-old Santa Clara resident, last seen Thursday afternoon, was the stay-at-home caregiver for his children, 3-year-old Nicholas and 9-year-old Harmony.
Kim Zacarias found her children around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, dead in their beds. A detective described the blood-spattered scene as "gruesome" and "brutal."
Police said Nicholas was Zacarias' son, and Harmony was his stepdaughter.
Authorities searched for clues near the coast and in Santa Clara. California Highway Patrol dispatched a helicopter late Friday morning to search the shrub-covered mountains and rugged cliffs near the Pacific Ocean.
"No one has found a body," said Kim Allyn, public information officer for the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office. "It's quite normal or routine for people to go to the coast and kill themselves or jump off a cliff, but we haven't found anything."
Santa Clara police have not named Zacarias as a suspect, but Sgt. Steve Bauer called him a "person of interest" in the killings. Witnesses reported seeing Zacarias with the boy earlier in the day.
"We're looking to speak to the stepdad who was taking care of the children," Bauer said Thursday night. "He was seen with the younger child at about 12:30 p.m."
The children appeared to have been strangled, Bauer said. Another police spokesman, Det. Jerry Rodriguez, later described the children's deaths only as "unnatural" but declined to comment on whether any weapons were found at the scene.
Zacarias was believed to have connections in Mexico, north of Santa Rosa and in San Diego County.
"He's at the top on our list because he was the last one seen with the children," Rodriguez said.
A bungalow-style home with white awnings and neatly manicured hedges connected to the front of the two-story building where the family lived. The building _ as well as houses on either side of it _ were cordoned off well into the night as investigators worked behind the cover of a large white sheet hung over the entrance.
A small memorial was hastily erected Thursday night in front of a nearby house on Harvard Avenue with carnations, a pink teddy bear with a rosary, a ceramic angel and candles. Neighbors on the well maintained, middle-class street paced on front porches and in driveways as lights and cameras from television crews cast a bright glow.
Hunter Kuncaitis, 15, and his brother Jerry, 18, rode their bikes from down the block to watch from behind crime scene tape as the investigation unfolded late Thursday.
"This is a big novelty for our neighborhood. I'm sure if this were in New York or Washington it wouldn't be a big deal. But it's a really big deal here," Jeffrey Kuncaitis said.
Anyone with information about Zacarias' whereabouts was asked to call the Santa Clara Police Department.