BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — On Memorial Day, Bakersfield police officers responded to a home, finding two people dead inside; one who appeared to be dead by gunfire, and another whose death appears to be a suicide.
It’s the fourth time it’s happened in Kern County this year. This time, on the 4600 block of Parkwood Court, a cul-de-sac not far from West High School in Bakersfield. They were identified the next day as Rafael and Maria Rodriguez, both 51 years old. A neighbor told 17 News the deceased couple had children together. He’d known them for about 12 years, and said he had seen nothing wrong at the home, describing them both as good people.
The grim discovery comes two months after Larry Karkkainen, 45, was found dead from gunshot wounds, and 19-year-old Larry Karkkainen was found with him, dead by a self-inflicted gunshot. The Sheriff’s Office declined to confirm their exact relationship at the time, but the bodies were found at a home on Cherry Street in Lake Isabella.
The month before that, on March 19, Jonathan Rosson and his mother, Beverly Helms, were both found stabbed to death – with Rosson’s death ruled a suicide. Their bodies were found inside a home on El Tejon Avenue in Oildale. The same day, 24-year-old Joseph Ruibal allegedly killed a 17-year-old from Lake Elsinor, before turning the gun on himself at a home on Castaic Avenue, about a mile away from the Rossons. The Sheriff’s Office confirmed both cases are suspected murder-suicides, while the Lake Isabella case is still an open investigation.
17 News was unable find a local agency that specifically tracks the incidents county-wide, but based on the 17 News Homicide Tracker, our reporters covered fewer than 3 murder-suicides annually from 2015 to 2020. The 4 in 2021 would be the most we’ve covered.
But, they left 18 people dead at the hands of 12 others, who later took their own lives. Nearly all victims were reportedly family members or intimate partners with their killers.
The death toll is skewed by Javier Casarez’s shooting spree in 2018, where he killed his ex-wife, Petra Maribel Bolanos, and 4 other people before shooting himself, once KCSO deputies cornered him in South Bakersfield.
Louis Gill, the CEO of the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, said it’s not obvious at first when something has gone wrong in a relationship.
“When it comes to intimate partner violence in a relationship, it can be controlling,” said Gill. “Who they communicate with, controlling their own funds, that’s how it starts and then it can progress to physical.”
17 News previously reported that Casarez had been in the middle of a bitter divorce. In court filings, Casarez claimed that Bolanos had cheated on him, and he had subpoenaed to see who she had been texting. A judgement had been made, but Bolanos had successfully reopened the case, after seeking legal assistance. Her representative told 17 News at the time that Bolanos did not speak English and had not understood the legal language presented to her before the judgement was made.
“Nationally the statistic is 72 percent of murder suicides involve intimate partner violence,” said Gill. “94 percent of those victims are female.”
Gill says the argument can be made that most people willing to inflict violence on their loved ones are dealing with something internally.
“It’s not part of a healthy relationship,” Gill said. “Something else is occurring. There’s usually some sort of trauma, or a chemical dependency or, God forbid, some kind of organic issue going on with them. They have trouble with modulating their emotions, understanding what a healthy relationship is, and so violence occurs.”
In Jonathan Rosson and Beverly Helms’ case, Rosson’s brother only said that he struggled with mental illness. Throughout his life, Rosson racked up several cases in Kern County Superior Court – including an incident where he stabbed someone on the same street he and his mother were found dead.
Rosson’s sister-in-law, Jennifer, left a comment on 17 News’ Facebook post, writing “Mental Illness was the reason behind this tragedy. Jon had been battling it and unfortunately he just couldn’t any longer. We will never know why he made that choice, but I know how much they loved each other. Beverly would do anything for her sons and Jon was always her protector. I find peace knowing that they are finally together, resting eternally, no more battles to fight. They were so very close. For anyone out there battling mental illness, please get the help that you need if you haven’t already. Please, before you reach that point of no return. Your family, friends, and loved ones need you and love you.”
Gill says it’s important to recognize signs of a serious problem and speak up.
“Often people that are being hurt, are afraid to speak up,” Gill said. “Sometimes asking the question can save a life.”
The Alliance offers counseling, advice, and emergency shelter, among other services, meant to help people who are unsure about what to do. They can be reached at their 24-hour crisis line, 661-327-1091 or toll free at (800) 273-7713.
In Bakersfield, there’s also the Family Justice Center, located on Oak Street.