In Triple Slaying, A Story of Heroism
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
As Judith Europa described how the father of her children shot and killed three people in a Woodbridge house, she clung to one positive: She and others were alive yesterday because two men were as intent on protecting those they loved as the gunman was on destroying them.
Europa said she was lying with four children on the floor of her sister's bedroom Sunday when Anastacio Sanchez-Miranda, 39, slipped into the Grandview Avenue house unnoticed, his jealousy seething. She and the children watched as her sister, Rosario Europa, 24, and brother-in-law, Juan Manuel Guevara, 28, were gunned down. Guevara had placed his body in front of Judith Europa and the children, she said.
"He was a good man. The best," Europa said in Spanish yesterday, standing outside the empty house. "He was a miracle to me."
Likewise, Carmen Vargas said her common-law husband, Gerardo Lopez Garcia, 25, died while protecting her and their daughter, who had celebrated her third birthday at the house the night before. Garcia was holding the door to their bedroom shut when he was killed, she said yesterday, sobbing.
"He gave his life for us," she said in Spanish, her small frame shaking. "He was our guardian angel."
The shooting, which occurred about 8:30 a.m., was the third triple homicide on record in Prince William County. The others occurred in 1978 and 2003, police said.
"Fortunately, it's very rare," said Paul B. Ebert, the Prince William commonwealth's attorney. "But when it happens, it's always horrible, and this case is no exception."
Sanchez-Miranda was being held yesterday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; he went to a relative's house in Scranton after the slaying, authorities said. He is expected to be extradited to Prince William, where he is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, Ebert said.
He said the charges are likely to be elevated to capital murder because of the number of victims. In addition to the three killed, two men, ages 18 and 30, were shot but are expected to recover.
Prince William police said 12 people were in the house at the time of the shooting, including five children. Police believe Sanchez-Miranda entered through an unlocked door before making his way upstairs to the bedrooms where the victims were shot.
Judith Europa was the intended target, police said.
"The information we have is they had ongoing domestic issues," said Kim Chinn, a police spokeswoman. "I don't think we know precisely exactly what the tipping point was."