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Victim's last texts: Santa gunman tried to be 'all fatherly'

One of the victims of a Christmas Day shooting in Texas that left seven dead sent text messages before her uncle opened fire saying he was there dressed as Santa Claus.
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/ Source: NBC, and news services

One of the victims of a Christmas Day shooting in Texas that left seven dead sent text messages before her uncle opened fire on the gathering saying he was there dressed as Santa Claus and wanted to be "all fatherly," police said Wednesday.

Investigators say 56-year-old Aziz Yazdanpanah, who had marital and financial problems, killed his estranged wife, their two teenage children, his wife's sister, his brother-in-law and his niece before turning the gun on himself. They were at an apartment in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Grapevine, where his wife and children had been staying.

Yazdanpanah's niece, 22-year-old Sara Fatemeh Zarei, sent a text to a friend just before 11 a.m. saying they had arrived at the apartment and that Yazdanpanah was there. "Soo we're here. We just got here and my uncle is here too. Dressed as Santa. Awesome," she said in one text.

At 11:15 a.m. she texted, "Now he wants to be all fatherly and win father of the year."

NBC News Dallas-Fort Worth reported that, after the killings, Yazdanpanah called 911 at 11:34 a.m. and then shot himself.

Grapevine police Sgt. Robert Eberling said police arrived about three minutes later and found everyone dead. It appeared they had been opening presents around their Christmas tree just before the attack.

A recording of the 911 call released Wednesday revealed someone saying "Help ... Help" and then "I am shooting people." Police said those words, muffled by the caller's labored breathing, couldn't be heard by the dispatcher Sunday but were audible when investigators used a different software system Wednesday. They believe the call was made by Yazdanpanah.

Authorities believe that in addition to killing his wife of 24 years, 55-year-old Fatemah Rahmati, their 19-year-old daughter Nona and 14-year-old son Ali, Yazdanpanah also killed his wife's sister, 58-year-old Zohreh Rahmaty, her husband, 59-year-old Mohamad Hossein Zarei, and their daughter, Sara.

Eberling said one of the two weapons, a 9 mm, was purchased in 1996 and registered to Yazdanpanah. The other weapon was a .40 caliber.

The medical examiner's office said Yazdanpanah's son, daughter, niece and sister-in-law were shot multiple times in the head.

His wife was shot once in the head and his brother-in-law was shot multiple times in the head, chest and stomach.

'He was probably overwhelmed'
Police believe that before Yazdanpanah killed himself, he tried to stage the scene by placing one of the two guns used in the hand of his deceased brother-in-law, Mohamad Zarei, Eberling said.

"I think he was probably overwhelmed when it was all said and done and decided to take his life instead," said Eberling, who added that Mohamad Zarei had been shot with both weapons.

Eberling said Yazdanpanah was the only one to fire the two weapons found at the scene. A gun was also found in his hand.

Eberling has said that detectives believe Yazdanpanah's marital and financial troubles led him to kill his family, but added Wednesday that his exact thought process that morning may never be known.

"We really don't have a clear idea of why he did this," Eberling said. "Sometimes there's not a really good explanation for irrational behavior."

Image: Seven people shot and killed in a Christmas Day shooting.
epa03043100 Police prepare to enter an apartment to begin the investigation where seven people where found shot and dead on Christmas Day in an apartment at Lincoln Vineyards Apartment Homes in Grapevine, Texas, USA, 25 December 2011. EPA/LARRY W. SMITHLarry W. Smith / EPA

Federal court records show Yazdanpanah was placed on three years' probation in 1996 after pleading guilty to one count of subscribing to a false income tax return. He was fined $1,000 and required to pay $30,119 in restitution.

Three years later, Yazdanpanah and his wife filed jointly for bankruptcy. That case was discharged in a matter of months.

Mashy Modjdehi, a friend of Yazdanpanah's wife who owns a beauty salon in nearby Plano, said the family's financial troubles intensified about four years ago when Yazdanpanah stopped working in the mortgage business.

Modjdehi said Yazdanpanah had long forbidden Rahmati, who holds a state cosmetology license, to work. But once he became unemployed, his wife held down jobs at two spas, the friend said.

Rahmati, known to family and friends as Nasrin, had filed for bankruptcy in August 2010, and told her attorney she hoped the proceedings would stave off foreclosure of the home.

She separated from Yazdanpanah in the midst of the bankruptcy and the proceedings were later dismissed because she failed to make the plan payments, said the attorney, George Barnes. Barnes said Yazdanpanah listed his occupation as "self-employed."

Rahmati moved out of the couple's home in Colleyville in April with the couple's two children and into the apartment complex two miles away, Modjdehi said.

Yazdanpanah, often referred to as "Bob," remained in the Colleyville home, currently valued on the tax rolls at $336,200, and was often seen working in his yard. Neighbors said there were few signs of discord.

The couple's daughter graduated from Colleyville Heritage High School this year and was attending a local community college. A friend said she hoped to go to school in California and become a lawyer.

The friend, Yiselle Alvarenga, said Nona had hinted in August that things were becoming increasingly difficult in her life but didn't go into details.

Alvarenga said she knew that Nona's father was "really strict" but that "her mom was more understanding."