A sheriff's deputy arrived at a Southern California home moments before a door was slammed shut and gunshots were fired in an apparent murder-suicide that left four dead, an official said Thursday.
Bonnie Hoult was standing outside the home Monday and holding the hand of her 4-year-old granddaughter, Catherine Fontaine, when the deputy arrived to check on a domestic disturbance, Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.
When she saw the deputy, Hoult walked briskly toward the mustard-colored house in the upscale, gated community of San Clemente, yanking the girl along, and entered the open garage, he said.
The deputy followed and thrust her foot in a door to the house to try to keep it open _ but Hoult slammed it shut and locked it.
Seconds later, shots were fired.
Authorities found the bodies of 67-year-old Hoult, the girl, her 2-year-old sister Julia and their 38-year-old mother Elizabeth Fontaine inside the home.
Investigators have not determined who fired the shots. A handgun registered to Hoult, a retired psychologist, was found between the women's bodies.
The shooting occurred just hours after a court commissioner tentatively ordered Fontaine to relinquish temporary custody of her daughters to a paternal aunt, an attorney for Fontaine's ex-husband said.
Fontaine, who was a patent lawyer, was due to appear back in court with her daughters Monday afternoon but never showed up.
Fontaine had moved to Houston last month after a bitter custody dispute in which she repeatedly accused her ex-husband of molesting the girls. No molestation charges were ever filed against him and his attorney said the allegations were false.