Police in Independence, Kentucky are still trying to sort out the tragedy of the Padilla family. So far, it's looking like a murder suicide.
A call came in about a fire at 1866 Freedom Trail in Independence on Tuesday night. Emergency responders were able to rescue a 2-year-old little girl found close to the front door of the burning home, but just after they recovered the child, they realized someone was shooting at them from inside the house.
The gunfire stopped and police and fire officials entered the home to find three dead bodies: Lori Padilla, age 45; her 43-year-old husband Seaward Padilla; and their daughter Jessica Padilla, age 22. The Padillas died from gunshot wounds.
Authorities haven't told local media whether or not they recovered a weapon. They also gave no indication as to who may have fired the shots. Independence Police Sergeant Scott Paul told a local publication that a 'tragedy of this nature takes some time to unravel.'
It seems clear that someone in the house was alive when EMS first got there, and that they died at some point after the child -- Jessica Padilla's daughter -- was rescued.
Usually in cases like this -- but not always -- the father is the killer.
Yet Seaward Padilla, at first glance, didn't fit the mold of the hyper-controlling and often rigid personality that tends to surface in investigations into family annihilations. The most classic example of such a 'family annihilator' was John Emil List, a pathologically uptight Episcopalian accountant who was on the lam for almost 18 years after murdering his family in November, 1971. Then again, there may be substantial differences between men who kill their families and then commit suicide and men who murder their families and go on the run.
Padilla had been a bus driver in the past, and he was so good at his job that a parent once nominated him for an outstanding work award from the county school board, saying in part that Seaward was 'absolutely wonderful' and 'good with the children.' Seaward, who drove bus 17, was 'the best bus driver we ever had.'
Seaward Padilla was also a photographer. He had a MySpace profile to host his photos: MySpace.com/SeawardPadilla. In his 'About me' on that page, Seaward told a great deal about himself -- including the fact that he struggled with something he referred to as 'severe pain':
'I find it very relaxing while takening photos. I have a lot of PRO cameras and lenses and I feel (and many other people have told me) that I know how to use them. Because of my medical issues I sometimes will shoot a wedding for them. I just have such a peace when I have a camera in my hand. The phototgraphy has a way of helping me with my severe pain. I am sorry for having to place the initials SP in the majority of my pictures but since some of my pictures are for sale I must try to protect myself. I am sure that you can understand. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and moved to Kentucky about 9 years ago. There were many plusses and minuses about the move but overall I would never think about moving back to CA. I am happily married to my lovely wife Lori, for almost 15 years and I look forward to living the rest of my life and getting old with her. I am a VERY PROUD GRANDPA! If you can stand to look at ALL of my shots of her you can see that she is worthy of every single shot and then some. Please check back often as I update the site. Thank you for sharing a moment of your time with me. I hope you will enjoy the eye candy and look forward to hearing from you soon...'
The photos were clearly the product of a trained eye and for the most part, professional in appearance. One of Seaward's more arresting photos was the one he chose for his profile pic. It showed a man in a fishing cap sitting at the end of a pier, the ocean stretching away to the horizon. The well-composed scene was both tranquil and lonely. Looking at it after reading about the death of the Padilla family lent the image a ghostly, mysterious quality. I wondered who the man was, and if it was Seaward, why he chose the photo for his MySpace. His last login was on October 7 -- Tuesday.
That was the last day his daughter Jessica logged in as well. Her profile was private, but she was clearly a proud mother to her daughter, for her profile title was 'Jaycee's Mommy.' Jessica's last mood icon read 'excited.'
Picking apart someone's online presence only yields guesses in the end, though. To figure out why a man might destroy his family along with himself is something that can only be done by studying that family's history and how they interacted with one another.
Most of the time, that doesn't happen. Such tragedies are usually too great to bear for those left behind. Talking in-depth about what might have led up to the fatal moments in question ends up being salt in the wounds. So we may, in the end, be left with that last image on Seaward Padilla's profile, of the lone figure sitting in the sunlight at the end of the dock, the rolling blue sea in front of him or her. Peaceful, yes, but also mysterious and utterly alone.
It's been months since we tragically lost Lori Plimpton Padilla.
Lori and I exchanged many emails since Cindy Lawrence asked me to help reconnect our friends and classmates. One email said that Leuzinger Teacher Jeri Rozadilla and Lori were very close in Lori's junior year. Jeri gave Lori a ride every morning from El Segundo so that Lori didn't have to change high schools.
I had written an email or two regarding German Teacher Mr Grether to our (then) much smaller group of classmates. I'm going to share an email from Lori that I found hard copied and stashed away in my desk since October 18, 2003...
Guten abend mein friend:
Herr Grether ist in neunzehn achtzig gestorben, denke ich. Er hat Krebs gehabt.
**** Mr Grether died in 1980, I think. He had cancer.
Er war ein ehrfurchtebietender Lehrer und ein wunderbarer Mann. Ich habe ihn verpabt und habe von ihm oft uber den Jahren gedacht.
*** He was an awesome teacher and a wonderful man. I have missed him and thought of him often over the years.
Mein Deutsch ist rostig aber vergibt nicht.
*** My German is rusty but not forgotten.
Mein Schweigersohn wurde auf heute bedient und wurde geschienen, gut zu machen. Er kann erhalten, nach Hause morgen zu gehen. Meine Familie vielen Dank fur die Gebete und die gutigen Gedanken. Es ist nett zu wissen, dab Sie noch ein guter Freund sind!
*** My son-in law was operated on today and seems to be doing well. He may get to go home tomorrow. My family thanks you for the prayers and kind thoughts. It is nice to know that you are still a good friend.
Vielen Dank fur alles!
*** Thank you for everything!
P.S. Ich wissen, Sie hatte!
*** P.S. I would have, you know!
Sprechen Sie mit Ihnen spater!
*** Talk to you later!
An email from me to Lori written in German prompted Lori to write me back in German. I used to speak Dutch somewhat fluently and was familiar with the written language. There isn't much difference between Dutch and German... so I gave it my best shot with Lori. I had obviously passed 'the audition'.
Lori was always concerned about me during my sophomore year. She was always asking if I was okay after watching me get unjustifiably trounced on by one of our fellow alumni. In my high school days, I never stood up for myself. I kept my feelings bottled up inside. I know that Lori knew that being bullied bothered me. Lori tried to be a good friend but I didn't let her or anyone else in to that specific area at that time of my life.
In regards to Lori's P.S. I would have, you know!... she responded because I asked her 'if I had opened up to you and let you be a friend to me, would you have gone out with me if I asked you out on a date back in our high school days. She gave me a very sweet answer.
In regards to her son-in-law coming out of surgery, Jason Search was an electrician. Jason and Lori's daughter Misty had just gotten married. Only 9 days after the wedding day, Jason was electrocuted on the job. His hands were pretty badly burned with his right hand being burned worse than the left. He was in the burn unit in Indianapolis for 5 days before being released... and was scheduled for skin graft surgery on the morning after Lori's email. Lori had asked us to keep her family in our thoughts and prayers.
Unfortunately, Lori eventually lost her son-in-law in another tragic accident. Misty Padilla Searcy’s husband Jason died in a car accident in March 2005. He was 22. The couple lived in Indianapolis at the time of Jason Searcy’s death.
I do remember Lori pushing Misty in a stroller at Castle Park Redondo Beach during the Summer of 1983. Misty was born in March of that year. At the time of Lori's email, Misty was working as a dental assistant.
Seaward Padilla changed his name to John while in high school because he was embarrassed by it. He also had to take special PE classes because he was allergic to grass. In addition, he had been in an accident that caused damage to his teeth and he was bullied about it. I worked with him and lived a few blocks away from him in our home town. I know he had a heart condition. I pray he did what he did from illness and was not in his proper mind.