An ongoing dispute — possibly over golf — and imminent eviction likely led to last Friday's shooting and mobile home fire that left five people dead, the Santa Maria Police Department announced Monday.
Detectives believe 64-year-old Claude Adams shot and killed Kurt Bracke, 70, and Richard Hanen, 78, in the clubhouse area of the Casa Grande Mobile Estates around 11:37 a.m. Friday, according to Lt. Paul Van Meel. Hanen and Bracke were organizers of the Friday Golf Group, which gathered at noon each Friday, according to the mobile home park's newsletter, the Casa Grande Times.
After the shooting, Adams reportedly returned to his residence on the northwest side of the complex, Space 407, where an explosion and fire occurred. Three bodies — believed to be those of Adams; his 65-year-old wife, Sherry; and 33-year-old son, Seth — were recovered from the burnt remains of the unit. Their cause of death has yet to be determined, and the bodies have yet to be positively identified.
"I'm just appalled at what happened," K.C. Chavers, a three-and-a-half-year resident of the mobile home park, said Monday. "It's a quiet community and most people are polite to one another."
Calls to the Santa Maria Fire Department are common from the age-restricted community (residents of Casa Grande must be older than 55), Chavers said. But on Friday, from her unit just off the complex's main drag, she heard the wail of sirens — from the responding police cars and fire engines — followed by what she believed to be the spinning of helicopter blades.
"When the Fire Department comes in here, they do not turn their sirens on when they come," Chavers said. "Hearing the sirens was very different."
Camille Gallea, a Casa Grande resident, was traveling back from Nipomo the afternoon of the incident when she saw the black smoke billow over the city. Driving south on Highway 101, Gallea thought a fire might have sparked in the nearby riverbed until she turned onto Taylor Street and saw police corralling a group of people near the entrance.
Santa Maria Fire Department units have been called back to Casa Grande Mobile Estates on West Taylor Street where a fire that damaged or destr…
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"We all feel pretty safe in here," said Gallea, who, like many others, chose to live in the private community for its relative safety compared to the rest of the city.
Once a year, toward the start of summer, residents of the mobile home park hold a driveway sale and open the gates to allow outsiders to venture in and shop. That sale, scheduled for June 22 — the day after the shooting and fire — was canceled after the incident.
"It didn't seem appropriate to continue with it," Chavers said. "We figured there would be a lot of lookie-loos coming in."
The homeowners association board of directors (of which Chavers serves as president) is currently collecting donations — either money or gift cards — to support the occupants of the three nearby homes that were either damaged or destroyed in Friday's fire.
"One of the houses that were completely destroyed lost everything — they literally got out with the clothes on their back," she said.
A celebration of life for Bracke and Hanen is planned but has yet to be scheduled.
Van Meel urged family members of Claude, Sherry and Seth Adams to contact the Santa Barbara County Coroner's Bureau at 805-681-4145 to assist the department in its identification.