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Plea Scrawled at Scene of Family Slaying: ‘God Please Forgive Me’

March 22, 1990

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A 15-year-old girl who squeezed through a dog door at her friend’s house found the message scrawled in black crayon on the dining room wall: ″God please forgive me.″

Elsewhere, she found the bodies of an out-of-work single mother and her three children, all shot to death in what police described as an act of desperation by a woman overwhelmed by her marital and financial difficulties.

The family dog also had been shot and killed.

″We’re about 99 percent complete with the initial investigation and we’re pretty sure what happened there was a murder-suicide,″ Detective Rick Swanston said Thursday. ″There isn’t anything pointing in any other direction.″

Crystal Erickson discovered the bodies in suburban Reseda after school Wednesday afternoon.

She also found a five-page suicide note by Roxanne Fernandez Jones, 32, who said she loved her children and hated to put them through living in a world full of strife, the Daily News reported.

Investigators found Brandy Fernandez, 16, and her sister Leticia, 13, in their beds, each shot in the head and chest, Swanston said. Jeremiah Jones, 7, was shot to death in his mother’s bed, and her body was found nearby with a small-caliber rifle.

For police, the remaining task involves examining evidence and tying up a few administrative loose ends, Swanston said.

But for Jones’ relatives, friends and neighbors, there remain questions that may never be answered.

″People suffer behind closed doors,″ said Gloria Allred, an attorney involved in women’s rights issues.

″It’s a common problem with single parents after separation and before legal proceedings to be in a financial and emotional crisis.″

Jones had been receiving support from her first husband, Joaquin Fernandez, and she was recently separated from Jeremiah’s father, police said.

″If there was an informal arrangement for him to pay some of the bills, I don’t know,″ Swanston said.

Studies by Harvard sociologist Lenore Weitzman have shown that single mothers tend to suffer the most in the first year after divorce, experiencing a 73 percent decline in their standard of living. By contrast, men typically experience a 42 percent improvement in living standards.

Jones recently had stopped working for the Salvation Army and apparently had been unable to find steady work, friends and neighbors said. She had been baby-sitting and picking up odd jobs for extra money, and recently asked neighbors for small amounts of money.

Brandy, her eldest, had contributed her pay from a pizzeria to help feed the family before she was laid off from her job a week ago, said her boyfriend, Derek Shelton, 18.

″Everything just wasn’t going well for her,″ Lance Johnson, a neighbor and friend, told the Los Angeles Times.

″I can’t believe she did this,″ said Joyce Pacheco, who lives around the corner. ″Roxanne never seemed depressed about anything.″