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Shooting spree a shock for California community
Scripps-McClatchy Western Service


June 02, 2005

Ventura County, Calif. -- The violence that ended Tuesday morning after tearing through eastern Ventura County for 16 hours left city officials calling it the worst crime spree to rock the affluent area in recent history.

"Thousand Oaks has never seen a crime spree such as this," Mayor Claudia Bill-de la Pena said.

Simi Valley Mayor Paul Miller, the city's former police chief, agreed that it was unlike anything he'd ever seen.

"This type of thing occurs rarely in this community," he said, later adding, "When it comes to crime, anything can happen any time. None of us are guaranteed 100-percent safety."

True, these are wealthy communities that FBI crime statistics show to be among the safest in the country.

"It can happen anywhere when you have people under stress," said Bob Meadows, a criminal justice professor at California Lutheran University.

Shootings began in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Monday about 4 p.m., and a manhunt followed, lasting through the night and into the morning hours. It wound through Santa Rosa Valley, Calif., and ended in Simi Valley, Calif., about 11 a.m. Tuesday.

In the late afternoon Monday, police say, Toby Whelchel, 38, of Thousand Oaks and formerly of Indiana, shot and killed Steve Mazin, 52, and Jan Heyne, 51, in Thousand Oaks. He also shot Heyne's husband, Timothy, who was in critical condition Tuesday.

He then carjacked a truck and eventually turned up at a Santa Rosa Valley home Tuesday morning, where he shot and killed a 48-year-old woman and pistol-whipped her two children. A sheriff's deputy who tried to stop the shooter was shot as well.

Whelchel was ultimately chased to a Wal-Mart in Simi Valley, where he shot himself.

Helicopters flew loudly overhead, ambulances zoomed past and a red fire truck blocked part of Santa Rosa Road on Tuesday. Residents in the Santa Rosa Valley lingered outside their homes in shorts and jeans, appearing badly shaken and expressing wonder that such a thing could happen there.

"The only thing we ever have problems with is accidents, car accidents," resident Kelle Brydon said.

Rosemary Allison, head of the Santa Rosa Valley Community Association, called the valley "the safest, nicest area that you'd ever want to be in."

"That's why something like this is so shocking to us," she said.

Jim Nuciforo leaned into a neighbor's pickup truck, explaining how he'd heard the sheriff's deputy getting shot as he chased the suspect through the gated community, Camelot Estates.

"It's been one (freaking) morning, I tell you, man," he said.

Several neighbors said they were having their morning coffee when the shots rang out.

The disabled sheriff's car sat at the entrance of Camelot Estates for several hours. Passersby slowed. The rear window was shot out and the ground was strewn with broken glass. A bloodied white cloth and surgical gloves sat nearby.

Neighbor Ken Hill said he saw the whole thing.

"His vest caught it," he said of the deputy.

At the close of the day, the Thousand Oaks City Council and city staff issued a press release stating that they were stunned by the events.

"I would like to express our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed as well as with the survivors, and it is our fervent hope that those injured will pull through," Bill-de la Pena wrote.


Contact Stephanie Hoops of the Ventura County Star in California at

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