SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – A criminal rampage that left four people dead and five hospitalized in a series of murders, pistol whippings and carjackings ended Tuesday when the 38-year-old suspect killed himself inside a Wal-Mart store, authorities said.
The gunman who committed suicide was identified by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department as Toby Welchel (search), whose last known address was in Indiana.
The violence started Monday when three people were shot in the front yard of a home in Thousand Oaks (search). A woman identified as 51-year-old Jan Heyne was pronounced dead at the scene and attorney Steve Mazin, 52, died at a nearby hospital. A third shooting victim, Timothy Heyne, a rock music manager, was hospitalized in critical condition.
Authorities said Welchel had a business relationship with one of the victims, but did not elaborate.
After fleeing the home, Welchel abandoned his truck at a nearby Vons supermarket, then carjacked a white Ford F-150 truck, said Sgt. Patti Salas, a sheriff's spokeswoman. Welchel pointed a gun at the driver, who turned the truck over without a struggle.
The truck was found about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday near a park, said Sheriff Bob Brooks.
About a half hour later, sheriff's Deputy Scott Ramirez responded to a disturbance call at a home near the park, Brooks said. A woman at the home had also called her husband, who rushed home and used his vehicle to block the suspect's car in the driveway, Brooks said.
Ramirez arrived to find Welchel firing at the husband. The deputy returned fire, but was struck once or twice in the left shoulder area, Brooks said. Television footage showed the deputy's patrol car with its side and rear windows blown out.
Ramirez, 30, was hospitalized, but was alert and talking. He is expected to recover, Brooks said.
Despite his wounds, Ramirez was able to describe the black Nissan pickup truck authorities said Welchel stole from the family's pool maintenance man.
The woman was pistol-whipped and possibly shot, and two of her children also were pistol-whipped, Brooks said.
The woman, identified as 48-year-old Carole Nordella, died from her injuries at Los Robles Regional Medical Center, sheriff's officials said in a statement. The children, a 10-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl, were treated at the hospital for head wounds.
The pool maintenance man, who was also beaten, was taken to Simi Valley Adventist Hospital for treatment.
"This was an act of unexplained violence. It certainly wasn't the level of force necessary to steal a car, which was his intent," Brooks said. "It was violence just for violence sake."
The suspect, in a vehicle stolen from the home, was chased by patrol cars and tracked by helicopter to the Wal-Mart store in Simi Valley (search) about 10 miles from Thousand Oaks and about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
About 100 employees and customers were evacuated from the sprawling store as 40 to 50 officers surrounded it.
Officers who entered the store found Welchel dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Brooks said.
Welchel, who had a criminal record in Florida, Indiana and California, had a history of committing violent crimes, including resisting arrest and battery on a police officer, Brooks said.