then shot and killed her, their two children, three other relatives and himself, leaving seven bodies scattered amid Christmas gifts that had just been opened.
Grapevine, Texas, police revealed that the gunman waited until the presents were opened to kill the victims and then himself.
The mass murder garnered nationwide news coverage coming as it did on Christmas morning.
The gunman was identified as Aziz Yazdanpanah, 56, who lived in nearby Colleyville.
“Just a really nice guy, and whenever I saw him with his kids he was all about his kids,” said neighbor Terri Baum. “He was the perfect neighbor.”
Neighbors told WFAA television that Yazdanpanah and his wife separated last March. She then moved into the Grapevine apartment where the shooting took place.
Friends identified the victims as Fatemeh Rahmati, 55, the wife of the gunman, who worked at a nearby salon. The couple’s two children were also killed. Friends say Nona Yazdanpanah, 19, was a student at Tarrant County Community College who dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Her brother, Ali, 15, was a student at Colleyville Heritage High School.
Yazdanpanah also killed his sister-in-law’s family from nearby Irving, Texas. Zohreh Rahmaty, 58, was Nasrin’s sister. She was shot along with her husband, Hossein Zarei, 59, and their only child, Sahra Zarei, 22.
The couple’s 19-year-old daughter graduated from Colleyville Heritage High School along with her best friend, Allison Baum. “It was just family issues, just typical family issues,” Baum said. “The mom and dad didn’t get along. The dad was never violent, never did anything to hurt them. He loved his kids and he was a good dad.”
The family had apparently just opened gifts. Police found their bodies around 11:30 a.m. near presents and wrapping paper. A Christmas tree stood nearby.
Police say he murdered his family while wearing a Santa Claus suit. Two guns were found near the bodies.
“Christmas is never going to be the same,” said Mona Hosseiny, 27, who grew up with the victims’ children.
The Zareis owned the Cedar Canyon Dude Ranch in Lan-caster, Texas, which they ran as an event center, friends say. Their daughter, Sahra, handled marketing for the company and was a pre-med student at the University of Texas at Arlington.
“She was the first friend I made here,” said Neda Hosseiny, 22. She says the Zarei family loved to volunteer, and would often greet returning US soldiers at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. “They loved to do that,” Hosseiny said. “They would make the [welcome] signs.”
Public records show the family had financial troubles. A bank foreclosed on their Colleyville home last year, although Yazdanpanah continued living there.
His friends say his business as a realtor was struggling, and the family had declared bankruptcy.
Still, police aren’t saying what could have sparked the shooting. Family friends say he never showed any sign of being violent. “During the years, we sensed things,” family friend Sedi Toumani said, “but not to the point he would take his own children’s lives!”
But a more ominous portrait emerged of Yazdanpanah in interviews the Dallas Morning News had with some of his daughter’s other classmates.
“She would come to school crying and telling us her dad was crazy,” said Lacie Reed, 18. “He wouldn’t let her wear certain things. He was always taking
her phone away, checking her call history and checking her text messages.”
Friends said Nona’s father had installed cameras all around the home so he could watch the family’s comings and goings. Others said he nailed her bedroom window shut so she could not sneak out at night and see her boyfriend.
“She couldn’t date at all until she was a certain age, but when he was going to let her date, she couldn’t date anyone outside of their race or religion,”
Yiselle Alvarenga, 18, said Nona’s mother and brother seemed to come to her aid when her father punished her.
“He would take her phone away and her mother would give it back to her and her brother would let her use his phone,” Alvarenga said. “She was doing good. She was just excited that her life was going to start and she was going to have control of it.”
More than 60 current and former students attended an impromptu candlelight vigil Monday night in the senior parking lot at Colleyville Heritage High School. Amid tears and fond memories, they reminisced about a friend they described as a shy, quiet teenager who always had a smile and cared about others.
Nona was a member of the debate team during all four years of high school. Her friends said her father helped organize debates, raise money and occasionally served as a judge.
Monday afternoon, co-workers of Yazdanpanah’s estranged wife, went to her home looking for her after she didn’t show up for her shift.
“After an hour and a half of calling her with no answer, we decided to come looking for her,” said Leah Langford, director of Cold Water Creek Spa. “It’s not like her to not show up for work or even be late.”
Her co-workers said she was a hard worker and always took care of everyone at the spa.
“If she was running just five minutes late and she was down the street, she would call,” said Sabrina Turley, assistant director at the salon. “She was very sweet and such a hard worker. She always took fruits and food into work; she took care of people.”
The family was Muslim but had celebrated Christmas as a cultural holiday.