Friends, neighbors grapple with family's murder-suicide
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Friends and neighbors of a man who shot his wife and children, then turned the gun on himself, are left to wonder about the motives behind the events that tore apart a South Florida family.
The people who knew 45-year-old Carlos Zuniga all agreed on one thing: they could not believe this seemingly peaceful family could fall apart under such circumstances. "Oh, yeah, it's tragic," said Enrique Cal, a neighbor. "He shot his own kids and wife, tried to kill everybody."
Thursday morning, the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office confirmed they had received the body of Stefan Zuniga, the shooter's 11-year-old son. Zuniga's wife Michelle, 43, and his daughter Laurie, 14, remain in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Shortly before 9:30 p.m. Wednesday night, City of Miami Police and fire rescue units responded to a shooting on the 2600 block of Southwest 24th Street.
Jennifer Pich lives next door to Zuniga's home. "My room is right on the side of their house. I heard the two shots, we lowered the TV, and we heard the cry for help," she said. "A little girl screaming, 'Help.'"
Investigators said Zuniga shot his wife and children before taking his own life outside his Miami home. Miami Police arrived on scene to find Zuniga deceased and his wife and two children with gunshot wounds. "It turned quickly into a life-saving event," said Miami Police Detective Willie Moreno. "You could see officer rushing a little girl into the truck."
Michelle Zuniga and her two kids were transported to JMH in critical condition. "A fire rescue truck was immediately escorted to Jackson Memorial Hospital by a group of, like, 20 officers," said Moreno.
Zuniga's neighbors said there were no warning signs prior to this tragedy. "It's really hard, because I've known them my whole life," said neighbor Ashley Weisson, who added that the Zunigas always seemed like the perfect family. "Super happy, like the families you see in the movies." she said.
Pich is in shock that children were injured in this shooting. "It shocked me because she's just a little girl," she said. "Kids shouldn't get hurt."
Residents are now concerned for their safety. "It's scary because you don't think it's going to happen next door to your house or to you," said Pich.
Parents at Coral Way Bilingual Center, where Stefan was enrolled, heard about Zuniga's actions Thursday morning. "I think it's pure madness," said Mareini Anselmi. "Other than that, I can't understand what happened with his mind."
The accused shooter was a pilot who most recently worked as a safety inspector for the FAA. He married Michelle in 1998, and they opened a hot air balloon business together. Friends say they no longer owned that company. Michelle told The Miami Herald a few years ago that she and her husband started that business so they could spend more time with their kids.
The motive of the shooting remains unknown at this time.
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