STOCKTON (AP) — A Stockton family counselor suspected of killing his estranged wife and two of her relatives before he committed suicide had been in a contentious divorce that included a fight over property valued as high as $1 million, a defense attorney said.
Divorce proceedings between suspect Colin McGrattan, 45, and his estranged wife, Jackie Arata, 57, had been tense and focused on Arata’s family ranch in nearby Linden, attorney Dennis Duncan, who represented Arata, told the Record of Stockton on Tuesday.
Police suspect McGrattan killed Arata, her sister, Kathleen Arata, 64, and their aunt, Chizuko Kanieshi, 88, before killing himself on Monday in Stockton, police said. McGrattan and Kanieshi died in a senior home.
A call placed to Duncan by The Associated Press on Wednesday was not immediately returned. A call placed to McGrattan’s attorney Michael Babitzke also was not immediately returned.
Duncan said Arata inherited orchards and a home from a family trust, and McGrattan thought he had a claim to the property valued between $500,000 and $1 million. They had leased the orchards to farmers and lived in the home until their separation in October 2010.
“Colin had thought in his mind that, with all they had done together to take care of Jackie’s mother before she died, that he had some right to the ranch,” Duncan said. “She didn’t want him to have it, and the law is very clear that she had sole and separate ownership.”
Officer Joe Silva, a police spokesman, said it was unknown where the killing spree began, but investigators suspect McGrattan killed Jackie Arata on Monday afternoon then drove her minivan to Kathleen Arata’s home where he fatally shot her.
McGrattan then drove to the senior home where he killed Kanieshi in her room before shooting himself in the head. Police later discovered Jackie Arata’s body wrapped in a tarp inside her van.
As a counselor, McGrattan mediated arguments between squabbling couples and helped parents and their children through behavioral issues. He and his wife have two teenage sons.
His roommate, Courtney Bradford, told CBS13 that she was well aware of his woes.
“As long as I’ve known him, he’s been very kind,” she said. “He was talking to me a lot about losing his home and bankruptcy and the amount of money he had to pay the lawyer for all the divorce court stuff.”
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)