On July 16, 2011, tragedy struck the Franco family, when 28-year-old Juan Carlos died in a car accident. Nearly two years later, on June 7, 2013, tragedy struck again, when John Zawahri allegedly killed Juan’s father, Carlos, and his sister, Marcela, during his shooting rampage.
A group of relatives and friends met with reporters Sunday evening outside the family home, in the Sawtelle neighborhood of West L.A.
Margaret Quinones-Perez, 68-year-old Carlos’ sister-in-law and aunt to 26-year-old Marcela, spoke for the family.
The family first knew that something was wrong on Friday when Marcela, an avid Facebook user, stopped updating her Facebook page, said Quinones-Perez.
Carlos was killed instantly; Marcela was shot in the head and gravely injured. Quinones-Perez said the family made the difficult decision Sunday morning to take Marcela off of life support.
Marcela, who was about to graduate from Cal State Dominguez Hills, "was radiant, she was beautiful, she was sassy, and she had a mind of her own," said Quinones-Perez. "And she loved people."
Carlos was "a wonderful father and a wonderful husband," she said.
The loss of Carlos and Marcela creates "a hole that will never be filled."
"Marcela and Carlos were very close," continued Quinones-Perez. "They loved each other; she was a daddy’s girl, so the blessing is that they went together."
Quinones-Perez said Carlos left his wife a parting gift.
"Carlos is like most men, who don’t show a lot of feelings," she said. But shortly before the shooting on Friday, he left his wife a touching phone message, which she retrieved while the family was in the ICU with Marcela.
Carlos said in the message that he and Marcela were leaving Santa Monica College, and that he was running late. Then he added, "'but I want you to know that I still love you.' He doesn’t do that. And then we never heard from him again."
"This family needs help," added Quinones-Perez, who asked for donations to the fund for the family set up by Santa Monica College. The money will "let us be able to bury them with dignity and with honor."