Marriage counselor suspected in Calif. triple murder-suicide was in contentious divorce, attorney says

Colin McGrattan CBS Sacramento

(CBS/AP) STOCKTON, Calif. - A California marriage counselor suspected of killing his estranged wife and two of her relatives before committing suicide had been in a contentious divorce that included a fight over property valued as high as $1 million, an attorney said Wednesday.

Divorce proceedings between 45-year-old suspect Colin McGrattan and Jackie Arata, his 57-year-old estranged wife, had been tense and focused on Arata's family ranch in nearby Linden, an attorney representing Arata told The Associated Press.

Dennis Duncan said Arata inherited orchards and a home from a family trust, and McGrattan thought he had a claim to the property, valued between $500,000 and $1 million. They had leased the orchards to farmers and lived in the home until their separation in October 2010.

McGrattan thought he was entitled to the property after the couple had taken care of Arata's mother prior to her death in 2010, Duncan said.

"Colin's position was that he had some right to the ranch," the lawyer said. "But Jackie didn't want him to have any part of it. She was entitled to a sole and separate ownership."

Police suspect McGrattan killed Arata, her sister, Kathleen Arata, 64, and their aunt, Chizuko Kanieshi, 88, before killing himself on Monday in Stockton, police said. McGrattan and Kanieshi died in a senior home.

Police say the motives for the killings remained under investigation.

In his work as a counselor, McGrattan mediated arguments between couples and helped parents and their children through behavioral issues. He and his wife have two teenage sons.

More on CrimesiderOctober 24, 2012 - Calif. marriage counselor allegedly commits triple murder-suicide