A man in east San Diego called authorities in the early hours of New Year’s Day to report he had shot and killed his wife in their family home in unincorporated El Cajon, officials confirmed.
At around 12:35 a.m., the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO) Lakeside Substation received a call from Hauati "Howard" Fa'anunu, 41, claiming he had shot his wife at their home in the 8200 block of Melrose Lane.
Deputies were dispatched to the house. When they arrived, they discovered Fa'anunu’s wife, unresponsive, suffering from trauma to her upper body. Her husband, however, was nowhere to be found.
About a half-hour later, Fa'anunu turned himself in at the El Cajon Police Department. Deputies from the sheriff’s department were called to the police station to take the homicide suspect into custody. Fa'anunu was booked into jail on suspicion of murder.
Homicide investigators roped off the couple’s home and collected evidence overnight. Officials said Fa'anunu was being interviewed and was cooperating with the investigation.
Lt. Kenneth Nelson said investigators suspect six children – ages two to 13 – were inside the home at the time of the shooting, but it is unknown if any of the children actually witnessed the crime. The children were unharmed, Nelson confirmed.
The children were dropped off with family members after the incident, officials said. Shortly after investigators left, family members returned for the children's belongings.
"We heard some shots in the night, but New Year's around here, people shoot their guns, so we didn't think anything of it," said neighbor John Pool.
Other neighbors told NBC 7 the couple had marital problems and were separated, living apart for a time.
The family was active in an East County Mormon church, neighbors said, and Howard worked for a local water district.
"The kids, they were very nice kids, six of them," said Pool. "So I feel sorry for the kids. They'll probably end up at their granddad's."
Lt. Nelson said officials do sometimes see an increase in violent and deadly domestic violence cases this time of year.
“It is an absolute tragedy and, unfortunately, when the holidays come around, emotions tend to run a little high, tempers seem to run a little bit short. It’s not uncommon to see a small uptick in violent issues – especially among family members – this time of year, unfortunately,” he told NBC 7.
The case is under investigation. Anyone with information should contact the SDSO Homicide Detail at (858) 974-2321 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.
The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s (ME) office conducted an autopsy on the victim and confirmed she died from a gunshot wound to the head.
The ME identified the victim as Mary Fa'anunu, 34.