INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Police found a body late Saturday in a backyard bungalow belonging to a masked gunman who is accused of setting the residence on fire before shooting five members of a Southern California family, killing a father and his 4-year-old son.
An autopsy will determine whether the body is that of Desmond John Moses, 55, who investigators believe went on the early morning shooting rampage over a dispute with the victims, who live on the same property in front of him, Inglewood Police Lt. James Madia said.
A manhunt for Moses will continue until the body is identified, he added.
Investigators believed Moses wore a dark cap and a white painter’s mask when he entered the family’s home around 4 a.m. and fired 10 times.
The 30-year-old father was shielding two of his children when he was shot, Police Chief Mark Fronterotta said, and his 28-year-old wife was shot in both legs but managed to carry the wounded 4-year-old out of the house.
Paramedics found her collapsed on the street. The child, who suffered a bullet wound to the head, died at a hospital.
“This is a horrific crime. It’s inexplicable why somebody would do this,” the chief said.
Madia said Moses lived in the bungalow for 17 years, while the family lived in the front house for 8 years.
Fronterotta would not discuss the nature of the dispute, but the property owner told the Los Angeles Times that Moses had been fighting an eviction notice and recently lost his case in court.
A woman who knew the family, Judy Castellanos, told the Times that the suspect was reclusive and would not let anyone look inside his home.
“He had been asked to leave by the end of this month,” she told the newspaper.
After the shooting, police evacuated about 15 nearby houses to search for Moses while firefighters and investigators sifted through Moses’ bungalow to determine whether he returned there after the shooting.
Madia said the search of the badly burned bungalow took hours because it was packed with debris.
“He was kind of a hoarder or pack rat,” Madia said. “So that, along with the destruction from the fire made it a complete mess. When his body was located it was hard to tell who was under the rubble.”
The victims’ names were not released pending notification of relatives.
The mother and her 7-year-old daughter, who was shot in the chest, remained hospitalized in stable condition, Madia said. A 6-year-old boy, who was shot in the pelvis, was released from the hospital late Saturday.
An 8-year-old boy escaped injury.