Police look for
clues in deaths of Santa Clara familyBy May Wong The
Associated Press (04-06-02)
SANTA CLARA — Poems and paper
flowers dotted the halls of the school where Elsa Schiefer was known
as a bright, athletic, cheerful girl.
The 12-year-old straight-A student and her family were killed in
what police are calling a murder-suicide, and all day Friday,
students at Hyde Middle School in Cupertino questioned how their
schoolmate could have met with such a tragic ending.
Police were seeking the answer to the same question.
“We’re still trying to piece together the puzzle,” said Santa
Clara police Detective Kurt Clarke.
Elsa, and her 5-year-old sister, Jessica, were found dead in
their Santa Clara home Thursday, along with their mother, Tae Young
Schiefer, 42, and her estranged husband, Ulrich “Uli” Schiefer, 38.
Police say the woman shot and killed the others before turning
the .38-caliber revolver on herself. The woman, a stay-at-home mom,
had locally purchased and registered the gun last month.
The family was found dead Thursday afternoon after Ulrich
Schiefer’s co-worker stopped by to check on him because he hadn’t
shown up at work for several days.
Inside, police later found Elsa in the family room and Ulrich
Schiefer in the foyer downstairs. In an upstairs bedroom, Jessica
was on the bed, wrapped in a blanket next to her mother with the gun
It appeared that Ulrich Schiefer was trying to escape, police
said: he was found with multiple gunshot wounds by the front door.
Police believe the family died Monday.
A motive has not been determined, but police believe the couple’s
marital problems are a key factor. The two had been separated for
the past two months, and Ulrich Schiefer was living in Sunnyvale and
had custody of Jessica.
Police did not know why Ulrich Schiefer was at the Santa Clara
home on Monday, the day witnesses last saw the couple alive.
Neither neighbors nor school officials said they saw prior
evidence of domestic violence.
The younger daughter and her mother had just dropped off flowers
and a homemade drawing for their elderly neighbors across the street
on Easter Sunday. The family attended block parties and neighborhood
“Elsa was a delightful child, and there was no sign that she came
from a troubled home,” said Steve Parker, the principal at Hyde
school. “This is very bizarre.”
As recent as last winter, the family had sent out “Seasons
Greeting” cards, bearing a picture of the smiling family of four in
front of a Christmas tree.
Police also say they have not found reports of violence but are
Family Court records do not show that either parent had filed a
restraining order — a sign sometimes of brewing trouble.
The case is also unusual because the apparent perpetrator was a
woman, police said.
“The police always assume it’s the male, but this case shows it
could be the woman as well,” Clarke said.
The couple met in Germany and married eight years ago, police
Tae Young Schiefer was Korean, and Ulrich Schiefer, German. Elsa
was Tae Young Schiefer’s daughter from a previous marriage, and
police are trying to locate the girl’s father in Korea, along with
other relatives living there.
Small “Post-It” notes and loose papers with writings in German
and Korean were found in the family home, and police are trying to
determine if any of them will offer clues as to what happened.
Ulrich Schiefer was an engineer at Remedy Corp. in Mountain View,
a business software company that was recently acquired by Peregrine
“We’re all very much saddened by the tragedy,” said Tamara Doney,
a spokeswoman for Peregrine.