October 27, 1997
California mother shoots dead three children, then self

A mother of five shot and killed three of her children and wounded a fourth before shooting herself, a sheriff's detective said Monday.  The woman, Susan Eubanks, 33, was in critical condition in a San Diego-area hospital, where she underwent surgery. The wounded boy, believed to be about 4 years old, was reported in "extremely critical condition" in another hospital with a gunshot wound to the head.

A fifth child was found unharmed after Sunday night's shooting in a house in San Marcos, some 20 miles north of San Diego. According to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, deputies had gone to the woman's house after the children's father asked them to check on the welfare of the children. It was not clear whether the father and Eubanks were married.

As the deputies arrived, they heard cries for help and forced their way into the house, where they found Eubanks with a gunshot wound and three of her children, all boys, dead. The ages of the dead boys were not immediately available. The uninjured survivor was questioned by sheriff's detectives, who said they had no motive for the shootings.


July 27, 1999
Murdering mom trial to start next month

An unemployed nursing assistant accused of the execution-style slayings of her 4 young sons is expected to go on trial next month. Susan Eubanks, 35, faces the death penalty if convicted of murdering her sons, who were between the ages of 4 and 14, when she allegedly shot them Oct. 26, 1997.

Authorities said Eubanks, distraught over breaking up with her boyfriend and separating from her husband 6 weeks earlier, got drunk and shot the boys before turning the weapon on herself. She recovered from a stomach wound and was charged with murder while still recovering in the hospital.

As jury selection continues, the Superior Court Judge Joan Weber has taken steps to limit what is expected to be intense media coverage of the trial, scheduled to start in 2 weeks. Weber this week ruled that cameras will be allowed in the courtroom during opening statements, closing arguments, the reading of the verdict and the sentencing -- but not during any of the witness testimony. "I am not going to have the possibility that a particular witness testimony might be impacted by having a camera stuck in their face when they are testifying," Weber said.

Aug. 10, 1999
Lawyer claims she 'blacked out,' killed four sons
Mom's murder trial begins

No one took Susan Eubanks' threats seriously until it was too late. Her boyfriend, Rene Dobson, said she often told her four young sons, "I brought you into this world. I can take you out of it," but he thought she was just bluffing to get attention. But she followed through on her threat on Oct. 26, 1997, after drinking and arguing with Dobson. She shot her sons, ages 14 to 4, in the head, stopped to reload the .38-caliber handgun and then shot herself in the stomach.

Eubanks, 35, is now on trial in a northern San Diego County courtroom on four counts of first-degree murder and faces the death penalty if convicted. Bill Rafael, her attorney, doesn't dispute Eubanks killed her boys -- she left behind five suicide notes -- but he contends the deaths were the result of a Valium and alcohol haze, not premeditated murder. In opening statements Monday, Rafael said Eubanks, an unemployed nursing assistant, was a good mother until work-related injuries led to her addiction to painkillers. He said she also began drinking heavily to kill the emotional pain caused from bad relationships with men. 

The day she killed the boys, Eubanks "blacked out" emotionally and mentally after a day of drinking, Rafael said. "It was while she was in this state that Susan stopped being a good mother and became a robot, giving in to her suicidal and homicidal fantasy of ending her pain," Rafael told jurors. Prosecutor Bonnie Howard-Regan read from the suicide note Eubanks left to her husband of nine years, Eric Eubanks, which was enlarged to poster size for jurors to see. "You betrayed me," she wrote. "I've lost everybody I've loved. Now, it's time for you to do the same."

Susan Eubanks, dressed in a tan blazer and black pants, swiveled in her chair and dabbed tears from her eyes when the letter was read. Dobson testified that he and Eubanks spent hours that day drinking at a bar. They argued as he drove her to her home, where she took his keys and refused to let him leave. Dobson walked to a gas station and called San Diego County sheriff's deputies about 3 or 4 p.m. By the time deputies arrived at the home, Eubanks had slashed two tires on his car, Dobson said. Officers watched him remove some items from the car and home, and he then left the house. 

Her estranged husband, Eric Eubanks, stopped by during this time and Dobson said he told him, "She's a little whacked and I want you to know that's she's talked about killing herself and the boys." But Susan Eubanks was left alone with the boys and no one intervened. Eric Eubanks, 38, testified that about 7 p.m., he checked his home answering machine and Susan Eubanks had left a cryptic message: "Say goodbye." He called the Sheriff's Department and when deputies arrived they found Brigham, 6, Austin, 7, and Brandon, 14, dead from gunshot wounds to the head. Matthew, 4, also shot in the head, died the next day at a hospital. Susan Eubanks' 5-year-old nephew was sitting on a bed, unharmed.

Susan Eubanks was found crying in the master bedroom, clutching a bloody towel to a gunshot wound to her stomach. Five days later, she was charged with murder while lying in her hospital bed. Authorities investigated allegations from her sister and friends that she abused her children, information prosecutors may reveal during the anticipated weeks-long trial. Eric Eubanks, the father of the three youngest boys, was convicted of beating Susan Eubanks two months before the shootings and ordered out of the home. She filed for divorce but proceedings have yet to be finalized.

Aug. 19, 1999
Mother Found Guilty of Killing Her 4 Sons

A San Diego Superior Court jury convicted a 35-year-old San Marcos woman of first-degree murder for shooting her four sons to death in a drunken rage. The jury took only two hours to reach its verdict. Susan Eubanks, who did not deny killing her sons, faces a penalty phase in which prosecutors will seek the death penalty. Eubanks, a former hospital surgical room employee, was convicted of gunning down sons Matthew Eubanks, 4; Brigham Eubanks, 6; Austin Eubanks, 7; and Brandon Armstrong, 14, in rage over the breakup of her marriage and a subsequent relationship.

"She was fueled by her anger against the men that she perceived had betrayed her," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Bonnie Howard-Regan. "It was callous. It was cold. It was Susan Eubanks not being able to control the men anymore. So they had to suffer, even if it meant taking away the lives of four innocent children."

Eubanks slumped over at the defense table as the jury's verdict was read. Members of her ex-husband's family said they supported the verdict and hope Eubanks is sentenced to death.

"We're grateful for the jury," said Dale Eubanks, grandfather to three of the boys. "They were such wonderful boys, the kind of grandsons every grandparent wants." Eubanks had been watching a football game on television and drinking heavily at a bar in Escondido on Oct. 26, 1997, when she returned to the family's ramshackle home in nearby San Marcos and shot each boy in the head with a .38-caliber pistol. During the shootings, she reloaded the pistol and also shot herself once in the stomach. 

Eubanks had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19%, far above the legal limit for intoxication, and had ingested more than her daily dose of the tranquilizer Valium, authorities said. While at the bar, Eubanks and her boyfriend, a construction worker, had an argument, which led him to say he wanted to end the relationship. As he tried to remove some clothes and construction tools from the home, Eubanks smashed his truck and the two nearly got into a fistfight.

After sheriff's deputies arrived, the construction worker left. The fatal shootings took place only moments after the deputies left. Evidence at the trial indicated that Eubanks had long suffered from alcohol-related problems and was a victim of spousal abuse during a volatile marriage. At the time of the murders, Eubanks had a restraining order against her husband of nine years, Eric Eubanks, a cabinetmaker who had been convicted four months earlier of spousal battery and sentenced to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Although Eubanks did not testify, her attorney, William Rafael, told jurors that Eubanks' mind was so foggy with alcohol and drugs that she could not form a conscious intent to murder, a definition of first-degree murder. Rafael had hoped for a finding of second-degree murder, which would mean his client could not be sentenced to death.

But jurors disagreed. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty because of the multiple victims and the cruelty of killing children. To counter Rafael's assertion, prosecutor Howard-Regan showed jurors a note that Eubanks left for her ex-husband at the murder scene which read: "I've lost everything I've ever loved. Now it's time for you to do the same."

Howard-Regan called the shootings "a shocking, horrendous crime, a waste of valuable life. I can't keep from thinking about those boys." After killing her sons, Eubanks attempted suicide by shooting herself in the stomach. She recuperated at the hospital where she was once an employee. 

There are 10 women on death row in California, compared with 527 men. The state has not executed a woman since the death penalty was restored in 1992. Nationwide, three women have been executed since 1976. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there are 47 women awaiting execution in America, and more than 3,560 men.

Aug. 19, 1999
Woman Convicted of Murdering Four Sons

Blamed Bad Relationship With Men for Slayings

A woman who shot her four sons to death and blamed it on drugs, alcohol and bad relationships has been convicted of murder and now faces the possibility of a death sentence. Jurors will return next week to consider whether Susan Eubanks, 35, should get the death penalty or life in prison without parole. Eubanks shot her sons, ages 4 to 14, after an argument with her boyfriend in October 1997. She stopped once to reload the .38-caliber revolver and then shot herself in the stomach. She was convicted Wednesday.

Defense attorney Bill Rafael claimed his client -- an unemployed, debt-burdened nursing assistant -- was a good mother until work-related injuries led to her addiction to pain killers. She also began drinking to kill the emotional pain caused by bad relationships with men, Rafael said. Prosecutors argued that Eubanks deliberately plotted to kill the children to torment her boyfriend and the boys' fathers -- her two ex-husbands. Eric Eubanks, the father of the three youngest boys, testified he was concerned after receiving a cryptic message on his answering machine from Eubanks that said, "Say good-bye."

The day of the killings, Eubanks' boyfriend, Rene Dobson, called police and asked deputies to accompany him to her home. The two had been drinking all day and argued, and she took away his car keys and slashed his tires. Eric Eubanks stopped by during that time, and Dobson said he told the father, "She's a little whacked, and I want you to know that's she's talked about killing herself and the boys." Less than three hours later, deputies found 14-year-old Brandon Armstrong shot twice in the head, laying face down on the living room floor, his half-eaten cereal spilled around him. In a bedroom, his 7-year-old brother, Austin, was found sitting upright on the top level of his bunk bed, dead from two shots to the head. Two younger brothers, 6-year-old Brigham and 4-year-old Matthew, were on the bottom bunk, also with gunshot wounds to the head.

In a bedroom, deputies found Eubanks crying and clutching a bloody towel to her stomach.

Aug. 19, 1999
Woman convicted of first-degree murder of sons
GUILTY: Prosecutors say mother killed four boys to make their fathers suffer; may get death penalty

A mother whose defense centered on drugs, alcohol and bad relationships with men was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in the execution-style shootings of her four young sons. Jurors took just over two hours to reach the verdicts against Susan Eubanks, 35. As the verdicts were read, she hung her head.

Jurors will be asked to consider the death penalty or life in prison without parole at a separate sentencing hearing next week. Eubanks shot her sons, ages 4 to 14, after arguing with her boyfriend Oct. 26, 1997. As she killed the children, she stopped once to reload a .38-caliber revolver and then shot herself in the stomach. She left five suicide notes.

Defense attorney Bill Rafael claimed his client was a good mother until work-related injuries led to her addiction to pain killers. She also began drinking to kill the emotional pain caused by bad relationships with men, Rafael said. "What allowed this to happen was intoxication," he told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday. 

But prosecutors argued the children were killed to torment her boyfriend and two former husbands. "It was callous. It was cold," prosecutor Bonnie Howard-Regan said. "It was Susan Eubanks not being able to control the men anymore. So, they had to suffer, even if it meant taking away the lives of four innocent children." The prosecutor also claimed Eubanks deliberately plotted to kill her children, but never planned to kill herself despite the suicide notes and self-inflicted bullet. "She didn't shoot herself in the head. She didn't shoot herself in the heart. She shot herself in the stomach," Howard-Regan said.

Deputies went to Eubanks' home in San Diego County after Eric Eubanks, father of the three youngest boys, called authorities. During trial, Eric Eubanks testified he received a message on his answering machine from Eubanks that said: "Say good-bye." Authorities had been at the home hours earlier after Eubanks' boyfriend, Rene Dobson, called and asked deputies to accompany him to the home so he could remove his belongings. Less than three hours later, deputies found 14-year-old Brandon Armstrong, 7-year-old Austin, 6-year-old Brigham and 4-year-old Matthew shot dead. Deputies then found Eubanks crying and clutching a bloody towel to her stomach.

One of Eubanks' notes was addressed to her estranged husband: "You betrayed me. I've lost everybody I've loved. Now, it's time for you to do the same."

Brandon was the only child of his father, John Armstrong, who divorced Eubanks in 1988. She married Eric Eubanks that same year. She filed for divorce in September 1997 after he was convicted of domestic abuse. The divorce remains unsettled. 

Sept. 10, 1999
Mother to die for killing 4 sons
Trial: Boys, ages 4 to 14 were shot to death execution-style.

A woman who shot her four young sons execution-style after a day of drinking and arguing with her boyfriend was sentenced to death by a San Diego County jury Thursday. The same jury took just over two hours last month to convict Susan Eubanks, 35, of four counts of first-degree murder, but they took nearly two days to decide her sentence.

Superior Court Judge Joan Weber can choose the lesser penalty for Eubanks at a sentencing hearing later this year, but judges usually follow the decisions of juries. "It's a terrible thing to have to condemn someone, but in the end, she condemned herself every time she pulled the trigger," one juror said outside the courtroom. "There really was no other choice."

Eubanks killed the four boys, ages 4 to 14, on Oct. 26, 1997, because she was apparently despondent over her broken relationships with men. She was estranged from her second husband and she had broken up with her boyfriend that day. The unemployed nursing assistant wrote five suicide notes before commencing her murderous rampage, including one to her estranged husband stating: "You betrayed me. I've lost everybody I've loved. Now, it's time for you to do the same."

She shot all the boys in the head, two of them twice, and stopped once to reload the .38-caliber handgun. She killed the oldest boy, Brandon, while he was watching television and eating cereal. The other boys - Austin 7, Brigham, 6, and Matthew, 4 - were shot in a bedroom, where they were sitting on their bunk beds playing a Nintendo video game with their 5-year-old cousin. He was not harmed. She then shot herself in the stomach.

Prosecutor Bonnie Howard-Regan argued that Eubanks killed the boys to get revenge on the men in her life who she felt abandoned her. Defense attorneys contended that Eubanks killed the children in a moment of weakness, culminating several years of addiction to prescription drugs for work injuries and her failed relationships with men. "I suggest that this is a time for punishment, not a time to kill," attorney Vince Garcia said. "I ask you to let this troubled life go on until it ends on God's terms."

Oct. 14, 1999
Judge OKs Death for Woman Who Killed 4 Sons
Victims' Grandmother: I Have No Sympathy

With tears in her eyes and loud sniffles, a woman who shot her four young sons to death urged a judge to spare her life Wednesday. She failed. A Superior Court judge agreed with a jury's recommendation and sentenced Susan Eubanks, 35, to death in California's gas chamber. 

Outside the courthouse in this San Diego suburb, the grandmother of one of the boys told reporters that she had no sympathy for Eubanks. "She's still playing the ultimate victim. She still somehow is clinging to the hope that the 'ultimate victim' will get her off," Sally Armstrong said. "It always has. I don't think it's dawned on her that this is it."  

Eubanks, 35, killed her sons in October 1997 at her home in San Marcos, a suburb north of San Diego. She shot each of her sons in the head then shot herself in the stomach. She was hospitalized for several weeks; the children died instantly. The sons killed were Brandon Armstrong, 14, and Austin, Brigham and Matthew Eubanks, who were 7, 6 and 4, respectively. Eubanks blamed the shooting on a number of factors including her dependency on drugs and bad relations with her family. 

In September, a jury recommended that she be sentenced to death. On Wednesday, Eubanks urged Superior Court Judge Joan Weber to show her mercy. Eubanks said she was a normal person who cracked. "I wasn't any different than any of you, than anybody else," the former nurse's assistant told the court. "I worked in a job I loved. I paid taxes. I had the house, the family, the animals, the minivan." But then her life fell apart, and she feared separation from her children. "On that night, in my mind, it was better to be together in death than be apart in life," she said. "In my fear and despair, the unthinkable seemed reasonable to me. 

Weber was not impressed and called the killings the single worst criminal act in the history of San Diego County. The county, home to 2.6 million people, has been the scene of several high-profile crimes, including the 1984 massacre of 21 people at a McDonald's restaurant near the U.S.-Mexico border. After the court hearing Wednesday, a somber group of people gathered at the property where the killing occurred to plant roses in memory of the boys. Those attending included relatives, friends, the prosecutor in the case and jurors who recommended that Eubanks be put to death.

 

 

 


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