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Merced mother: there was no way to predict slaughter

The Associated Press
Friday March 29, 2002

MERCED — The mother of four children killed by her ex-husband said Thursday there was no way to predict that the former sheriff’s deputy would commit such a “horrible, unthinkable act.” 

In Christine McFadden’s first statement since John Hogan killed himself in her bed — after fatally shooting his young daughter and three stepchildren — she said there were many unanswered questions about what went wrong. 

Although Hogan had no legal custody of Michelle after the couple’s bitter divorce, McFadden said she made sure he got to see his girl five days a week. Two weeks ago, Hogan spent most of the day at his daughter’s fifth birthday party. 

McFadden’s best friend, a psychotherapist trained in crisis intervention, was at the party and didn’t notice anything of concern about Hogan’s behavior, McFadden said in a statement read by her lawyer. 

“There were no signs, no threats, and no ability to predict this horrible, unthinkable act,” said McFadden, who was out walking with a friend when the killings occurred. 

Four years ago, McFadden got a restraining order against Hogan, claiming he had an explosive temper. 

Merced Sheriff’s deputies said Hogan was bent on getting even for a divorce that left him with nothing. He blamed his stepchildren for causing the breakup. 

Before he turned the gun on himself Tuesday morning, he left an emotional phone message for a former colleague at the Santa Clara Sheriff’s office. Hogan said he didn’t know what else to do. 

“I’m bankrupt, morally, physically, emotionally, monetarily,” he said on a tape released Thursday. “My body’s gone, my mind’s gone. I have nothing left and I can’t stand what she does to me, what she’s been doing to me for a long time.” 

Autopsy results indicated that 17-year-old Melanie Willis tried in vain to fight off Hogan after he killed her two brothers, Stanley, 15, and Stuart, 14, who were both in bed. 

Scars on Melanie’s body showed signs of a struggle. Her body was found in the hallway outside her bedroom. She had been shot twice, once in the head, Cmdr. Mark Pazin said. 

Hogan shot Michelle last, striking her in the upper torso, killing her instantly. He took the dead girl in his arms and shot himself in the head in McFadden’s bed. 

Hogan, 49, retired from the Santa Clara sheriff’s department in 1993 for medical reasons after a 10-year career. He had worked as a private investigator in Merced. 

Deputies said there was no evidence Hogan had mental health problems. 

In her statement, McFadden said Hogan had “health problems and other disabilities.” 

The couple married in 1995 and divorced last year. 

McFadden, a veterinarian, thanked friends, the people she works with at Valley Animal Hospital and even strangers across the country who have sent messages of support. 

The children will be buried Tuesday in Merced. 

“I have always treasured my children and am grateful that I recognized them for the blessings they were,” she said. “The world is going to miss out on four incredible human beings.”