PLACERVILLE (CBS13/AP) – Placerville police say a school custodian has confessed to shooting and killing an elementary school principal after claiming he was fired.

John Luebbers was arrested shortly after Louisiana Schnell School Principal Sam LaCara was shot on campus Wednesday morning.

Today, Placerville police say Luebbers confessed to killing LaCara.  Luebbers told detectives he was fired by Luebbers Wednesday morning.  And that he went home, got a handgun and went back to the school, walked into LaCara’s office and fired twice, hitting LaCara.

However, the school district says Luebbers was not fired.  The district says he was told by LaCara to go home for the day after some sort of dispute, according to Placerville Police Capt. Mike Scott.

When asked if Luebbers misunderstood his employment status,Nancy Lynch, Placerville Union School District Superintendent said: “That may have been it.”

“He was upset about a disagreement,” Lynch said. “Mr. LaCara thought he needed to go home and cool off for the day.”

Vicki Barber, superintendent of the El Dorado County Office of Education, said the two men apparently had a dispute about the district’s selection of a new nighttime custodian. Luebbers was the daytime custodian and supervised that employee.

Luebbers’ mother, MaryAnn Phillips, said her son was friends with LaCara, and the two had gone golfing Sunday.

The confession comes as a memorial for the slain principal grows outside the Schnell school campus which is closed for the day along with the two other schools in the district.

Custodian Confesses To Shooting Principal

Students and residents are remembering LaCara with candles, flowers and a big banner where people are leaving their condolences.

Mourners held a candlelight vigil Wednesday evening for the 50year-old principal, an administrator described as a caring mentor and the man who held the school together.

Jennifer Whiteley said LaCara’s character shined through Wednesday morning, just before his death, when she called to talk about her son who was involved in a fight on the playground.

“He always was ready to jump in and help,” Jennifer said. “An hour later he was shot.”

Memorial For Slain Placerville Principal Grows

Parents are also struggling with how to help their young children understand and deal emotionally with what happened. 

“She asked me yesterday why Mr. John shot her principal and I didn’t know what to tell her…it made me cry,” said Bonnie Lukesh whose daughter AJ is in kindergarten at Schnell Elementary School. “I just told her sometimes people do things and we don’t know why anybody would do that.”

Grief counselors will be on hand to help students and parents cope when classes resume at all three Placerville Union schools on Friday.  The district is also publishing some information on their website to help children recovering from loss.

The school district held a news conference Thursday afternoon to update parents on the what school officials are doing to welcome students back and to explain some of the confusion immediately following the shooting.

“Mixed messages about where students would be released were confusing to parents and was made more difficult by the phone systems being jammed by all the incoming calls.  The most up to date information was delayed because of this,” said Placerville Union Superintendent Jane Lynch.

Lynch also talked about how LaCara will be missed by staff, students and parents.

“Sam LaCara is a man who was larger than life. He would greet his kids everyday and parents as they would come on campus,” said Lynch.

LaCara trained teachers at Schnell School for what they were required to do during the lockdown.

“[Thanks to Sam] the process worked exactly the way it was supposed to work yesterday,” she said. “They knew they were to stay in there until they were notified.”

The district also announced that retired Superintendent Ralph Friend will serve as interim principal at Schnell School.

Comments (15)
  1. esnesnon says:

    “Very good friends” typically don’t kill each other…just saying.

  2. Charles Marin says:

    The scary part with this case is, I don’t think this Luebbers fellow was a mental case. The shooter of Rep. Giffords was clearly a schizophrenic psychopath. But this guy seems like an ordinary guy who went off the deep end. That’s the scary part. So anyone, anyone can just fly off the deep end and kill you if they get mad enough? Whatever happened to yelling or punching people? At least that’s a better reliever than killing! Scary.

  3. DBSacramento says:

    Isn’t the motive that he got fired? I am very sorry that LaCara’s wife and children had this tragedy befall them. My deepest condolences and my prayers for your entire family.

  4. Linda says:

    You never really know what someone’s breaking point will be, apparently that’s what broke him

  5. Charles Marin says:

    Yes, deepest, most sincere condolences to the LaCara family. You who didn’t desrve this! Everyone’s hearts are with you.

  6. kathy C says:

    Luebbers neighbor said on the news last night that he was a very angry man, and would go off the deep end when he didn’t get his way. Makes me sick to think of what he did. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Sam LaCara.

  7. St. Peter says:

    It’s the strong morals, the possitive outlooks towards the students, & untarnished heart of Mr. Sam LaCara that make me wish i could trade my life so he would still be here. May he rest in peace. “Only the good die young – Billy Joel”

  8. Teaching Family says:

    We are so sorry for your pain. May you find comfort in the love from your community. Obviously, they love you and Mr. La Cara.
    To the community….We weep with you.

  9. Bob says:

    custodian of janitorial arts

  10. GENO says:


  11. Via says:

    Our condolences to the La Cara family. How difficult it must be to be Luebbers child. My heart goes out to that child too.

  12. esnesnon says:

    To St. Peter –

    For quoting Billy Joel, I too wish you could have given your life in place of Sam LaCara’s.

    1. Charles Marin says:

      Case in point, esnesnon, because the Billy Joel song isn’t a profound song about the irony of the fate of the pure of heart, like St. Peter’s reference would suggest. It’s just a silly rock ‘n roll song about trying to deflower a Catholic school girl. But to say St. Peter should lay down his life for referencing the song is a bit rich and in poor taste!

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