Texas Attorney Elizabeth Fontaine Feared Losing Daughters, So She Killed Them, Police Believe

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (CBS/AP) Orange County Sheriff's deputies believe that Texas attorney Elizabeth Fontaine may have been so distraught over a custody dispute that she killed her two young daughters, her mother and herself on Monday, but they are not willing to say for sure who pulled the trigger until a ballistics report is complete.

Photo: Orange County sheriffs on the scene Dec. 14.

After Fontaine didn't return to a Southern California family court Monday afternoon, authorities were sent to the San Clemente area home where she was staying while dealing with a reported custody dispute with her ex-husband Jason Fontaine.

What cops found was an incredibly bloody scene: Fontaine, 38, her daughters, 4-year-old Catherine and 2-year-old Julia, and Fontaine's mother, 67-year-old Bonnie Hoult, shot dead in the hallway, lying in close proximity, sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino told CBS affiliate KFMB.

Fontaine moved to the Houston suburb of Bellaire in November with her daughters, but they returned to California after their father requested a custody hearing, according to court documents and authorities. The home where the bodies were found apparently belonged to a friend who was letting her stay there while she attended the hearing.

At the Dec. 14 custody hearing, the court ruled that the two young girls should live with their maternal aunt rather than either parent, and Fontaine was ordered to return that afternoon to release the girls into the aunt's care, the San Clemente Times reported.

Investigators are still unclear as to which of the two women actually pulled the trigger and are waiting for ballistic and forensic reports, Amorino said, but said that the ex-husband is not a suspect at this time.

The deaths jolted the community, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, which has 42 luxury houses overlooking a golf course. The homes, with four to six bedrooms, sell for more than $1 million. Next-door neighbor Rebecca Vandehei told CBS 8 that she lit a stick of incense in the children's memory saying "It's very shocking…I did a prayer...I wanted to try to help."