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Custody dispute suspected in Clemente murders

December 15, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The investigation into the deaths of two young children, their mother and grandmother begins to reveal a bitter child custody dispute that may have ended in a murder-suicide.At the courtroom hearing Monday, the judge in the custody case had planned to give temporary custody to the girls' father's sister in Orange County. The mother was ordered to get the children and bring them back to court, but they never returned.

Authorities say 2-year-old Julia Fontaine and her 4-year-old sister Catherine were at the center of a bitter custody dispute that ended in an apparent murder-suicide.

"This is a huge shock," said attorney John York. "It's unimaginable what happened.

Investigators say the children were the first to be shot inside the home of a family friend Monday in San Clemente. They died next to each other in the hallway. Nearby were the bodies of their 38-year-old mother, Elizabeth Fontaine, an Irvine attorney, and their 67-year-old grandmother, Bonnie Hoult.

"The gun was registered to the grandmother. She had the gun approximately one year," said Orange County Sheriff's Spokesman Jim Amormino.

It was not clear who pulled the trigger. The bodies were found close to each other, with a .357-caliber revolver found in between them. Further DNA testing is needed.

"Whoever the shooter was, it happened very quick, within seconds," said Amormino.

Elizabeth Fontaine filed for divorce from her husband, Jason Fontaine, one year ago this week.

Jason Fontaine's attorney says Elizabeth accused her husband of molesting their 4-year-old daughter. Molestation charges were never filed against Jason.

"Jason went through absolute hell, that none of these allegations had any credibility, they weren't believed by any of the experts," said John York, Jason's attorney.

Elizabeth, her mother and two daughters moved from Orange County to Houston, Texas, a month ago. Elizabeth tried to re-open the molestation case. Jason was denied contact with the children. The court ordered Elizabeth to return to California last Monday.

"She would be teary-eyed and at one point she had to excuse herself, saying she was going to be sick," said York.

The judge planned to give temporary custody to Jason's sister in Orange County until the case could be sorted out.

Elizabeth was supposed to return to court Monday afternoon with the children. As the hearing got under way, two little girls, their mother and grandmother were already dead.

Jason Fontaine is now planning the funerals for his daughters. The funerals are planned for Friday.


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