Image: A classmate of one the victims walks with his parents
Gregory Bull  /  AP
A classmate of one the victims, left, walks with his parents away from a house where four people were found dead Tuesday, May 24 in San Diego. The family asked not to be identified.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/24/2011 9:20:35 PM ET 2011-05-25T01:20:35

A family of four that included a 9-year-old girl and a high school senior was found dead Tuesday in a swimming pool and bathtub at their San Diego home, in what police are calling an apparent triple murder-suicide.

The discovery stunned friends and neighbors in the quiet cul-de-sac, who described the four as a hard-working couple, a teenage daughter who was excited for prom and a younger girl who made friends easily.

San Diego police Lt. Ernie Herbert said the suspect was one of the four family members, but he declined to say which one. He said investigators found evidence of a murder-suicide after combing the home, but they were still working to determine a motive and were unsure exactly how the victims died.

Maurice Luque, a spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said earlier that all four appeared to have drowned.

Police identified the victims as Alfredo Pimienta, 44; his wife, Georgina Pimienta, 38; Priscilla Pimienta, 17; and Emily Pimienta, 9.

A relative reported finding the bodies after Alfredo Pimienta called to ask that he visit the home in a quiet southeast San Diego neighborhood, police said. The relative came to discuss a business transaction shortly after dawn.

Police responded to find Alfredo Pimienta and two females — one apparently the younger daughter — in the pool and another female in the bathtub. It wasn't immediately clear if the female in the bathtub was the older daughter or the mother.

Neighbors and friends said nothing seemed amiss with the couple, known for logging long hours at work, or their two girls. Georgina Pimienta's stepfather, Jose Villa, said he and his wife picked up Emily from school Monday. He said the family owns a towing business.

Priscilla Pimienta was preparing for college. She was to graduate next month from San Diego's High Tech High School, a charter school that has earned national acclaim for its high graduation rate, said classmate Alex Jasmund.

Jasmund said he, Priscilla and two other friends went to a theater Monday afternoon to see the 3-D vampire-hunting movie "Priest," a graphic-novel adaptation. Priscilla met with friends for frozen yogurt after the film to plan for Saturday's prom, including details like ordering a limousine and having a party with about 20 classmates.

Jasmund, 17, said he went to a pool party at the home Saturday night with about 10 of their mutual friends. All four family members were there and everything seemed normal, he said.

"How can this happen to anyone? Why would this happen to anyone? They don't deserve this. No one does," Jasmund said as he stood with his father outside the ranch-style house with Christmas lights on the garage door.

Cherish Burtson, 17, who described herself as Priscilla’s best friend, said she and Priscilla were looking forward to the prom and going to college in the fall. She said Priscilla was to attend Sonoma State University and study biology, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

“She was the most compassionate, kind and honest friend I have ever had,” Burtson told the newspaper. “We were excited together for the future.”

Marlon Soriano, who lives two doors away, said the family had been renting the home for no longer than two years. They hosted pool parties for relatives in the summer.

"They were a really close family," he said.

The house is one of the few rental properties in the safe, family-oriented neighborhood, said Soriano, 22, who has lived in the area since he was born. New tenants arrived at the home every two or three years.

"We're all pretty close-knit," Soriano said. "We all know each other."

Soriano waved hello to the family but generally didn't talk to them. The younger girl often played with other children in the neighborhood.

"The children were happy," he said. "They always seemed to be smiling."

Msnbc.com staff contributed to this report from The Associated Press.

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