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Murder-Suicide in Santa Ynez Valley

Lori Wolf-Pappas and Max Pappas in 2013.

Authorities believe 21-year-old Max Pappas shot his mother Lori Wolf-Pappas at her Santa Ynez Valley home before crashing his car and killing himself with a gunshot wound to his head. They are the son and estranged wife of Steve Pappas, who is known for spending years in court contesting his 2008 loss for 3rd District Supervisor. (It’s unclear if their divorce was finalized.)

Sheriff’s officials and California Highway Patrol (CHP) discovered Max Pappas’s body alone in a car after responding to a car crash on the 1500 block of Refugio Road at about 2:10 p.m. on Saturday. Authorities believe Pappas shot himself in the head while driving, causing his vehicle to veer off the road and crash into a tree. Sheriff’s deputies traced down the house associated with the car and found Lori Wolf-Pappas, who was 57, dead inside the home after conducting a protective sweep of the property. The street was shut down for hours on Saturday.

Max Pappas did not have any guns registered to his name, according to Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover, and there were no guns found in the house. Hoover said the department is still working to determine where the handgun came from. Pappas did not live with his mother; she lived alone. Max Pappas had reportedly moved in with his father. He had a younger brother.

Hoover said detectives are still investigating the circumstances that led up to the event. She declined to release further information.

On September 2, Max Pappas was charged with attempting to “commit a violent injury” against his father, Steve Pappas, according to the District Attorney’s Office. He pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge. The case is pending; the details of it are unclear. In 2012, he was charged with an alcohol-related misdemeanor.

Friends recalled Max Pappas to be friendly and outgoing in high school, but said he was not doing well in the relatively recent past. His demeanor had changed entirely, one old friend said. He appeared emotionless, the friend said, and he was reportedly in therapy. Many have posted “Rest in Peace” messages on social media.

This is the second murder-suicide in the Santa Ynez Valley in a few weeks. Last month, Gregg Hamilton shot and killed his wife Kimberly Hamilton before taking his own.

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