that's life (Australia)
Family massacre – murdered for their money
Sef Gonzales’life was unravelling, then his parents were found brutally stabbed to death…
Teddy and Mary Gonzales moved to Sydney from the Philippines with big dreams for their children,
Sef and Clodine.
Their family-owned hotel was destroyed during a 1990 earthquake, and Sef, 10, had survived after Teddy bravely ran into the crumbling building to save him.
Starting afresh, Teddy became an immigration lawyer and the family settled into their dream home in North Ryde. With visions of their children becoming doctors or lawyers, Teddy and Mary encouraged Sef and Clodine to study hard.
But Sef’s mediocre grades were a disappointment.
Feeling inadequate, Sef lied to his friends, making himself seem more interesting and successful. His stories ranged from scoring a modelling contract in New York, to training for the Olympics in taekwondo and owning a
television production company.
Sef’s charm meant people fell for every word.
‘He seemed very genuine. Even when he was boasting he seemed modest,’ one friend said.
But no matter the picture he painted, Sef couldn’t escape the fact that he’d already failed medical school and was now failing pre-law as well.
In 2001, Sef, 20, was so desperate to hide his grades from his parents, he forged academic transcripts, offering to do the same for Clodine, 18.
But Clodine revealed Sef’s scheme to their parents, who threatened to disinherit him.
That July, Sef knew it was mere days before Mary, 43, and Teddy, 46, were notified of his imminent expulsion from university.
He would be cut off from their $1.5 million estate... Then, on July 10, Sef went out to dinner with a friend.
Arriving home at 11.45pm, the front door was wide open.
Inside was the most horrific scene. There was blood everywhere.
His parents’ bodies lay in the living room – his mother’s throat slashed, his father’s spinal cord severed and his body covered with frenzied stab wounds.
Clodine was in her bedroom upstairs.
The killer had approached her from behind as she studied, strangling, stabbing and bludgeoning her with a baseball bat.
Sef called Triple-0, wailing, ‘My family’s been killed.’
Days later, a tearful Sef appeared on TV, offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the murderer.
‘It is difficult to explain the love and ties in my family,’ Sef wept. ‘If you were to picture the four corners of the world, in my world we were the four. Three corners of my world are now gone.’
A week later, Sef sang Mariah Carey’s ‘One Sweet
Day’ at the funeral.
But friends and family were left feeling unsettled by Sef’s calm composure, as he stood over the three coffins of his butchered family.
Even more concerning was that Sef sold the family cars, hocked his mother’s jewellery, moved to a luxury apartment and put down deposits on a Porsche and a Lexus, telling the car dealers he was about to score a large inheritance.
Sef’s behaviour captured the attention of police.
Then investigators found incriminating evidence on his computer.
There were internet searches for ‘methods of killing’ and he’d ordered toxic seeds for poisoning.
He’d then written a letter to a major food company pretending to be a disgruntled employee to provide police with a lead for the poisoning.
Three of your products have been poisoned, Sef wrote. By now they are on supermarket shelves. This is what you get for treating employees like garbage.
But after being diagnosed with suspected food poisoning, Sef’s mum was sent home from hospital very much alive.
So he decided stabbing his family was the only way.
To make the murders look like a hate crime, Sef spray-painted racial slurs on the walls before solidifying his alibi by getting dinner with his friend.
He’d left the front door open hoping someone else would discover the bodies, but when he arrived home, it was up to him to launch his biggest lie.
However, two witnesses placed Sef’s green Ford Fiesta at the house during the time of the murders.
In a last attempt to clear himself, Sef said he’d been too ashamed to admit he’d caught a taxi to a brothel. But the cabbie admitted Sef had paid him to lie and the prostitute Sef named didn’t work that week.
In the NSW Supreme Court, Sef Gonzales, then
23, denied the murders.
‘This was not a professional killing,’ Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC said. ‘This was a slaughter by an angry amateur who wanted to make absolutely sure they were dead but had no idea how many times he would need to stab them in order to cause death.’
The jury took less than a day to find Sef guilty. The day after his 24th birthday, he was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences without parole – the youngest Aussie criminal who will die in jail.