SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) - Sheriff's deputies had visited the
multimillion dollar oceanside home twice in the past two weeks,
prompted by calls from a concerned neighbor and worried relatives.
But deputies found nothing suspicious after trying doors and peering in windows, and they left the gated community after the callers conceded that family members - known for their privacy - were likely on an extended vacation.
It was only on Sunday, when two brothers broke a window and forced their way into the house, that authorities discovered the grim reality: five heavily decomposed bodies in the downstairs bedroom suite. The stench was so bad detectives wore Scuba-like breathing apparatus while doing their work.
On Tuesday authorities identified the bodies as three generations of the same family. Among the dead were mechanical engineer and expert trial witness Manas Ucar, 58; his wife, Margrit, 48; their twin 21-year-old daughters, Margo and Grace, and the family's maternal grandmother, 72-year-old Fransuhi Kesisoglu. Margrit Ucar would have turned 49 on Sunday.
Manas and Margrit Ucar originally immigrated from Turkey and the grandmother was a legal resident, said Lt. Erin Giudice, sheriff's spokeswoman.
The advanced decomposition of the bodies, which authorities believe went undiscovered for two to three weeks, means autopsies have still not been completed, she said.
Giudice said neither homicide nor suicide had been ruled out, but she stressed that the community was not in danger and no suspects were being sought. There had been no reports of trouble at the residence before the Memorial Day weekend, she said.
Manas and Margrit Ucar were found in a downstairs closet attached to a bedroom, with two handguns near the bodies. One of the handguns was registered to Margrit Ucar and Manas Ucar showed signs if a gunshot wound. The twin daughters and grandmother were found in the attached bedroom; their bodies were too decomposed to identify any gunshot wounds, Giudice said.
The house was completely shut up and because it was built into a cliff, the bedroom suite where the bodies were found was below ground level, shielded from view and well-insulated, Giudice said.
"Everything was closed up," she said. "The family and the neighborhood thought they were on vacation."
Neighbors contacted by The Associated Press either declined to comment or did not return phone calls.
Margo and Grace Ucar both finished work toward their Bachelor of
Science degrees in biology at the University of California, San Diego, this past winter, said Pat Jacoby, a spokeswoman for the university. The two were not currently living on campus, she said.
A page for Grace Ucar on the social networking Web site Facebook.com says she graduated from San Clemente High School in
Eugene Drucker, a retired Syracuse University professor who supervised Manas Ucar's doctoral dissertation in mechanical engineering, said he came to the United States in the 1970s from Turkey. After getting his doctorate, he was hired as an assistant professor and stayed in Syracuse for about five years, Drucker said.
Drucker said it had been at least 10 years since he last spoke with Ucar, but remembered him fondly.
"I knew Manas quite well," he said. "He was very soft-spoken, very respectful and polite. Everyone liked him. The students liked him. He was very capable."
University spokesman Kevin Morrow confirmed that Ucar earned his
Master of Science degree at Syracuse in 1974 and his doctorate in 1976 before working there as an assistant professor at the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science until the mid-1980s. He specialized in thermal energy systems, Morrow said.
Ucar left the university to start a business as a consulting engineer, Drucker said. Among other things, he provided expert testimony in lawsuits on subjects such as accident reconstruction and product liability, Drucker said. He moved the business to California in the mid-1990s, he said.
The Web site law.com lists Ucar as an expert on accident reconstruction, specializing in fires, explosions and seat belt use.
Ucar's wife, Margrit, also immigrated from Turkey and received her U.S. citizenship in 1987 while in Syracuse, according to an article in the newspaper The Post-Standard. A Southern California neighbor told KDOC-TV that she owned a jewelry boutique at a ritzy shopping mall in nearby Newport Beach.
Sea Pointe Estates, where the family lived, is an exclusive, gated community of about 75 upscale homes on a hill near the coast in San Clemente, about 65 miles southeast of Los Angeles at the southern edge of Orange County. The family home overlooks the Pacific Ocean and was worth about $1.7 million, according to the real estate Web site Zillow.com.
Associated Press Writer William Kates in Syracuse, N.Y.,
contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)