Bloody Monday

Terror tore into the South Coast late Monday night when an embittered and psychologically unstable former Santa Barbara resident and one-time U.S. Postal clerk entered her former workplace in Goleta carrying a gun. Jennifer Sanmarco, 44, shot and killed six nightshift postal workers before taking her own life. Shortly after 9 p.m., Sanmarco drove up to the U.S. Postal Service Distribution Center at 400 Storke Drive and slipped undetected into the gated employee parking lot during a shift turnover. According to Santa Barbara Sheriff’s investigators, Sanmarco — armed with a 9-mm handgun — forcibly took a security key card from an employee and began her assault on the massive 200,000-square-foot annex, leaving a trail of blood and bullets in her wake. A seventh victim was discovered late Tuesday night after authorities received a phone call from the boyfriend of one of Sanmarco’s former neighbors. Fifty-four-year-old Beverly Graham was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head at her apartment on the 5200 block of Overpass Road in Santa Barbara — just six apartment doors down from Sanmarco’s former residence. Though the investigation is still ongoing, authorities believe Graham’s death is directly linked to the shootings at the post office.
Speaking at a press conference late Tuesday morning, Sheriff Jim Anderson offered his condolences to families of the victims but remained tight-lipped on the details of the shootings and the ongoing investigation. According to Anderson, officers arrived on the scene and immediately discovered two victims lying dead in the employee parking area. Continuing toward the main entrance, the officers found a third victim fatally shot just outside the annex doors and a fourth — critically wounded but still alive — lying just inside. During the ensuing sweep of the building — evacuating some 90 on-duty postal workers in the process — authorities discovered two more victims, both dead, and Sanmarco, killed by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Officers believed Sanmarco reloaded her weapon at least once during the spree.

Most recently a resident of Grants, New Mexico, Sanmarco — who had a brief stint as dispatcher for the Santa Barbara Police Department in 1994 — worked in Goleta as a part-time mail clerk on the 9 p.m.-5 a.m. overnight shift for six-plus years before being placed on psychological leave in 2003. Authorities noted that several of Sanmarco’s former coworkers reported recognizing her during the Monday night rampage; according to Postal Inspector Randy DeGasperin, “Chances are she knew her victims, too.”

Sanmarco was placed on involuntary medical leave from the Postal Service in June 2003 after her “strange behavior” resulted in her being removed from the building’s property by Sheriff’s Department officers. Though she never threatened anyone or became violent during the ’03 incident, authorities say several coworkers believed she was at risk to hurt herself. Sanmarco relocated to New Mexico soon after, where she became known to local authorities after a reported incident of nudist behavior at a gas station. She achieved further notoriety around Grants by applying for a business license to start a publication called the Racist Press.

Sanmarco’s victims were identified Tuesday as Santa Barbara residents Ze Fairchild, 37, and Maleka Higgins, 28; Dexter Shannon, 57, of Oxnard; and Lompoc residents Nicola Grant, 42, and Guadalupe Swartz, 53. And early Wednesday morning, the sixth victim — 44-year-old Charlotte Colton of Santa Barbara — was pronounced dead at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
Speaking in the wake of the city’s first-ever murder, Goleta Mayor Jonny Wallis observed, “An act of violence is always a shock to the soul but especially so in a small community as ours. A day at the office should never end in death.” She went on to assure the families of those killed in the shooting spree, “The City of Goleta is ready to help in any way it can.”

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