SAN JOSE -- The mothers of the neighborhood, and a father, too, came running when they heard the screams of the children.
An 8-year-old boy stood in his pajamas in the doorway of his family home, shattered glass under his bare feet. His little sister in a nightgown ran down the front steps.
"What happened? Are you OK?" Renee Zarate called out before dawn Monday as she ran toward the boy from across N. 7th Street, a few blocks south of Japantown.
"He just shot my mom and daddy," the boy said, crying.
Inside, the youngest brother, just 5 years old, stood frozen, his mother dead in the kitchen, his father crumpled in front of the broken living room window.
"It's OK," Zarate told him. "Come out. Come out."
The slain couple were identified by NBC Bay Area and confirmed by neighbors as Pedro and Marybel Jimenez, who were in their late 20's. Their deaths mark the 21st and 22nd homicide of the year for the city. Police remained tight-lipped Monday night, saying only that the suspect was still on the loose. Relatives told NBC11 that the Jimenez's were high school sweethearts who had the three children together, but broke up before recently reuniting. They believe a jealous ex-boyfriend is to blame.
The homicides came nine days after Marybel Jimenez posted this note on her Facebook page: "I'm with the father of my kids the man of my life!!! hope everything works out for good :))," she wrote on July 15, amid photos of her
But neighbors who live upstairs, next door and across the street were awakened at about 4:20 a.m. Monday by the sounds of arguing and screaming and an initial burst of four or five gunshots. A second set of gunfire silenced the woman's screams.
Zarate and her husband, Rigo Martinez, from across the street rushed to their front window and watched as a slight man in a hooded jacket ran away from the horrific scene at the four-plex and down N. 7th Street just south of San Jose's Japantown. The man paused for a moment on the corner of Washington, before running away for good. They called police.
Martinez told his wife to stay put at first, "when you heard kids, that's when we decided to come out." Still, they worried the gunman might come back to shoot the children.
Upstairs from the Jimenez unit on the 300 block of N. 7th Street, Alejandro Luna, 19, and his mother, Liza Luna, also woke to the commotion.
"We didn't know if they were gunshots or firecrackers, but when my mom heard the kids screaming, she ran out the door," he said. "The kids were on the porch, crying."
Zarate was barefoot as she rushed over to the Jimenez's front porch. It took a moment, but she managed to coax the littlest boy, standing still inside, to come out and join his older brother and sister at the next-door neighbors house.
"They were shaking and crying," Zarate said. "They're traumatized for life now."
Over the next several hours, the house -- a craftsman converted into four units -- was crowded with reporters, TV cameras and relatives of the dead.
When someone asked who would take care of the three little children, Martinez heard one of the aunts say, "the whole family will. Everyone."
Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409.