SAN DIEGO — A New Year's Day shooting that left four people dead at a condominium near San Diego was a murder-suicide involving a 25-year-old Navy pilot who killed himself, officials said Wednesday.
John Robert Reeves shot himself in the head, and the three others with him were murdered, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said, citing autopsy results.
Fellow Navy pilot David Reis, also 25, was killed by a gunshot wound to the torso, and his 24-year-old sister, Karen, suffered a gunshot wound to the head and chest, officials said. Matthew Saturley, 31, of Chula Vista was shot multiple times.
Sheriff's Capt. Duncan Fraser said there were no outstanding suspects in the case, and police have found no evidence indicating there was an exchange of gunfire, although he declined to say if Reeves was the shooter, explaining that "we don't have forensic evidence yet to say that definitively."
"We have no eyewitnesses to what happened inside the residence," Fraser told reporters. "We don't know what the motive was."
Reeves' family members could not immediately be reached for comment.Video: Neighbor baffled by Navy killings (on this page)
The unusual case rocked the Navy's elite aviation community, many of whom live on Coronado, a picturesque peninsular enclave of 24,000 people on San Diego Bay that recorded only one homicide in 2010 and is home to Naval Air Station North Island.
It takes years of training to get wings as a Navy pilot. Aviation students are selected after standing out among their Navy peers, and fighter jet pilots are considered to be top performers among pilots.
Reeves, of Prince Frederick, Md., and Reis, of Bakersfield, Calif., were both F/A-18 fighter pilots assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 of the Third Marine Aircraft Wing at nearby Miramar Air Station. Both men joined the Navy in 2008 at separate universities.
Pilots in the program undergo a battery of rigorous physical, psychological and background tests before finishing the highly competitive program, Navy officials said. Their top-notch skills and mental toughness were featured in Hollywood's "Top Gun" — parts of which were filmed at Miramar.
The two Naval officers were in the final rung of their jet fighter training.
"The hardest thing you ever do in aviation is carrier landing aboard a ship at sea, so these guys were the pick of the litter," said Ernie Christensen, a retired rear admiral and former Vietnam fighter pilot who commanded the Navy's Top Gun fighter school for a time in the 1980s.
The two Navy pilots lived at the condominium with another Navy pilot who was out of town at the time. Friends and family members say they were not aware of any problems in the household, investigators said.
Military officials have been assisting the investigation but would provide no details on the two pilots or the training or psychological tests they had been undergoing, saying it was too early to do so in the probe.
Authorities were awaiting toxicology results to see if drugs or alcohol might have played a role.
Clubbing before tragedy
The two Navy pilots and Karen Reis went out to a nightclub on New Year's Eve with another unidentified friend, Fraser said. At the club, they met Saturley and returned to Coronado. When the gunshots rang out, the unidentified friend was talking to David Reis outside the condo, Fraser said. Reis rushed inside and the friend stayed outside and called 911.
When officers arrived at the home on Park Place on Jan. 1, they found David Reis' body near the front door. Officers withdrew and established a perimeter around the building, and the county SWAT team was called in.
A robot was sent in to the multi-apartment structure to determine whether there was an active shooting suspect on the first floor. When none was found, the SWAT team went in and found three more bodies on the third floor, including two in the bedroom and one on a landing. Investigators seized four guns; none appeared to be a military firearm, Fraser said.
Saturley attended the University of Maryland, earning a bachelor's degree in economics, before studying for a master's at MIT's Sloan School of Management, according to U-T San Diego. He has a 5-year-old daughter and had filed for divorce from his wife of nearly six years just three days before his death, U-T San Diego reported.
It's still unclear how Saturley knew the group.
'Gunshots went off'
Next-door neighbor, Don Hubbard, says Reeves moved into the home on Park Place over the summer. He drove an old army truck and used to take his motorcycles out to the desert.
Hubbard says his wife had seen a group of people talking next door just after midnight on New Year’s Day.
“[She] said the light was on and people were conversing normally and she went to bed. And then next thing we knew, gunshots went off,” said Hubbard.
Reeves joined the Navy in 2008 after completing a ROTC program at Penn State University, according to Navy officials. Reis joined after completing a ROTC program at the University of New Mexico in 2008.
"Our condolences go out to the families, friends, fellow service members and Coronado community during this time of mourning. We are committed to supporting the families of Lt. j.g. Reis and Lt. j.g. Reeves and those affected by this tragedy. We ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers," said Lt. Col. Robert Brodie, VMFAT-101 commanding officer.
David Reis trained at MCAS Miramar. His grandfather said he loved to fly.
“He says, ‘I don't know why they pay me for this. I'm having too much fun.’ His first flight on an F-18 he made some crazy comment, ‘I’m flying an F-18’,” said Andy Reis.
Friends say Karen Reis excelled on and off the volleyball court, first as a varsity player at UCSD and more recently as a coach for local club teams.
“Everybody who met Karen and spent any time with her, absolutely loved her," said former employer Paul Crowe.
Most recently she worked with 10 to 12 year olds at the Genuine Volleyball Club in Carlsbad.
Karen had studied neuroscience at UCSD, had been Rotary Scholar and excelled in academics in high school. She also worked at Trader Joes in La Jolla to supplement the money she made coaching volleyball. Her co-worker says her sudden death is an unbelievable tragedy.
“I just feel so devastated that this happened,” said Barbara Nealy, who worked with Karen for nearly three years. “She was a hard worker, did everything perfect and she was such a nice girl.”
Friends say Karen touched many lives, especially the young girls she coached in the sport she loved.
“She pretty much embodied what I wanted my girls to be around, which was someone strong in their faith and honest, caring and gentle,” said Crowe.
Funeral services for David and Karen Reis are scheduled Saturday in Bakersfield. A memorial for Karen is being organized on the UCSD campus next week.
This article includes reporting from Michelle Wayland at NBCSanDiego.com.
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