What Happened to the Padilla Family?
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Google Street View of the Padilla residence.
Police in Independence, Kentucky are still trying to sort out the tragedy of the Padilla family. So far, it's looking like a murder suicide.
A call came in about a fire at 1866 Freedom Trail in Independence on Tuesday night. Emergency responders were able to rescue a 2-year-old little girl found close to the front door of the burning home, but just after they recovered the child, they realized someone was shooting at them from inside the house.
The gunfire stopped and police and fire officials entered the home to find three dead bodies: Lori Padilla, age 45; her 43-year-old husband Seaward Padilla; and their daughter Jessica Padilla, age 22. The Padillas died from gunshot wounds.
Authorities haven't told local media whether or not they recovered a weapon. They also gave no indication as to who may have fired the shots. Independence Police Sergeant Scott Paul told a local publication that a "tragedy of this nature takes some time to unravel."
It seems clear that someone in the house was alive when EMS first got there, and that they died at some point after the child -- Jessica Padilla's daughter -- was rescued.
Usually in cases like this -- but not always -- the father is the killer.
Yet Seaward Padilla, at first glance, didn't fit the mold of the hyper-controlling and often rigid personality that tends to surface in investigations into family annihilations. The most classic example of such a "family annihilator" was John Emil List, a pathologically uptight Episcopalian accountant who was on the lam for almost 18 years after murdering his family in November, 1971. Then again, there may be substantial differences between men who kill their families and then commit suicide and men who murder their families and go on the run.
Padilla had been a bus driver in the past, and he was so good at his job that a parent once nominated him for an outstanding work award from the county school board, saying in part that Seaward was "absolutely wonderful" and "good with the children." Seaward, who drove bus 17, was "the best bus driver we ever had."
Seaward Padilla was also a photographer. He had a MySpace profile to host his photos: MySpace.com/SeawardPadilla. In his "About me" on that page, Seaward told a great deal about himself -- including the fact that he struggled with something he referred to as "severe pain":
I find it very relaxing while takening photos. I have a lot of PRO cameras and lenes and I feel (and many other people have told me) that I know how to use them. Because of my medical issues I sometimes will shoot a wedding for them. I just have such a peace when I have a camera in my hand. The phototgraphy has a way of helping me with my severe pain. I am sorry for having to place the initials SP in the majority of my pictures but since some of my pictures are for sale I must try to protect myself. I am sure that you can understand. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and moved to Kentucky about 9 years ago. There were many plusses and minuses about the move but overall I would never think about moving back to CA. I am happily married to my lovely wife Lori, for almost 15 years and I look forward to living the rest of my life and getting old with her. I am a VERY PROUD GRANDPA! If you can stand to look at ALL of my shots of her you can see that she is worthy of every single shot and then some. Please check back often as I update the site. Thank you for sharing a moment of your time with me. I hope you will enjoy the eye candy and look forward to hearing from you soon...
The photos were clearly the product of a trained eye and for the most part, professional in appearance. One of Seaward's more arresting photos was the one he chose for his profile pic. It showed a man in a fishing cap sitting at the end of a pier, the ocean stretching away to the horizon. The well-composed scene was both tranquil and lonely. Looking at it after reading about the death of the Padilla family lent the image a ghostly, mysterious quality. I wondered who the man was, and if it was Seaward, why he chose the photo for his MySpace. His last login was on October 7 -- Tuesday.
That was the last day his daughter Jessica logged in as well. Her profile was private, but she was clearly a proud mother to her daughter, for her profile title was "Jaycee's Mommy." Jessica's last mood icon read "excited."
Picking apart someone's online presence only yields guesses in the end, though. To figure out why a man might destroy his family along with himself is something that can only be done by studying that family's history and how they interacted with one another.
Most of the time, that doesn't happen. Such tragedies are usually too great to bear for those left behind. Talking in-depth about what might have led up to the fatal moments in question ends up being salt in the wounds. So we may, in the end, be left with that last image on Seaward Padilla's profile, of the lone figure sitting in the sunlight at the end of the dock, the rolling blue sea in front of him or her. Peaceful, yes, but also mysterious and utterly alone.