We live in the Sef Gonzales mur­der house

It was the site of one of the na­tion’s most fa­mous homi­cides – but it’s home sweet home to this fam­ily writes AMELIA SAW

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Contents -

When the door opens to the im­pres­sive Syd­ney home in which stu­dent Sef Gonzales blood­ily mur­dered three mem­bers of his fam­ily, there’s no hint of the sick­en­ing crime that shocked Aus­tralia.

The walls have been painted a per­fect cream, the floor tiles are glossy, and the light, bright rooms have been fur­nished with an el­e­gant mix of French pro­vin­cial and con­tem­po­rary Aus­tralian fur­ni­ture.

It feels like a home. And it should – be­cause it’s where Pat Olivo and her part­ner Jeremy Mum­ford have been liv­ing with Pat’s son Mitch Grant for the past 13 years.

The walls of this stately home in North Ryde were once wit­ness to blood-cur­dling screams as Gonzales beat, stabbed and stran­gled his 18-year-old sis­ter Clo­dine, mother Mary Loiva, 43, and fa­ther Teddy, 46, to death.

Yet today it once again plays host to fam­ily din­ners and wine and cheese nights with friends, just like many other homes in the mid­dle-class neigh­bour­hood.

“This is my home. I get re­ally an­noyed when peo­ple ask me about what hap­pened here be­cause it hap­pened be­fore us,” says Pat, who bought the prop­erty with Jeremy in 2005, four years af­ter the mur­ders took place.

The fam­ily were told about the house’s shock­ing his­tory be­fore they bought it, but af­ter much con­sid­er­a­tion they unan­i­mously de­cided they wouldn’t let its his­tory pre­vent them from buy­ing their dream home.

“You get a feel­ing from a house, and it was a re­ally good feel­ing from the very first time I stepped in­side,” in­sists Jeremy, who works in con­struc­tion.

It was also a great investment. Ac­cord­ing to Pat and Jeremy, they were able to pur­chase the large four-bed­room home for con­sid­er­ably cheaper than the price it would have reached if not for the mur­ders.

Yet the home’s grisly his­tory con­tin­ues to cap­ture the pub­lic’s imag­i­na­tion. True crime fa­nat­ics reg­u­larly drive past, hop­ing for an in­sight into the twisted mind of then 20-year-old Gonzales – a for­mer al­tar boy so tor­tured by jeal­ousy, sex­ual guilt and the high ex­pec­ta­tions of his de­vout Catholic par­ents that he ended their lives.

The Filipino im­mi­grants had worked hard, build­ing a prof­itable le­gal prac­tice, and Gonzales hoped to in­herit their $10 mil­lion es­tate. It’s un­der­stood he killed his sis­ter Clo­dine to en­sure she had no claim on the life of lux­ury he imag­ined for him­self.

It was about 4pm on the ch chilly af­ter­noon of July 10, 2001, whenwh Gonzales re­turned home. He armed him­self with two knives and a base­ball bat, and went up­stairs to find Clo­dine, who was sit­ting in her room. It was a day af­ter her 18th birth­day.

Gonzales bru­tally mur­dered his sis­ter then lay in wait for the next fam­ily mem­ber. At around 5.30pm Mary Loiva came home. Gonzales stabbed his mother mul­ti­ple times be­fore she died.

An hour passed be­fore Teddy walked into the dark­ened house, brief­case in hand. Gonzales lunged at him once he en­tered, and a strug­gle en­sued. How­ever the lov­ing fa­ther was no match for his son’s fury.

In a cal­cu­lated at­tempt to make the mur­ders look like a hate crime, Gonzales then spray painted the words “F*** off Asians” on the wall.

Pat and Mitch were liv­ing just streets away at the time. They re­mem­ber hear­ing about the sick­en­ing crime, which shocked ev­ery­one in their seem­ingly safe, nor­mal sub­ur­ban neigh­bour­hood.

A few years later, Pat and Jeremy were driv­ing through the area when they no­ticed a For Sale sign out the front of the va­cant prop­erty. “There was small print on it. It said, ‘This is the for­mer home of the Gonzales fam­ily.’fam­ily. I think it did say they were mur­dered in the house,” re­calls Jeremy.

The note of warn­ing had been put on the sign af­ter the house was bought by a Bud­dhist Tai­wanese cou­ple, who were not in­formed of its dark his­tory.

When they read about what had hap­pened in their new home in the news­pa­per, they de­manded the agent re­fund their de­posit. As a re­sult, the law was changed in NSW to state agents must dis­close any “ma­te­rial fact”, such as a crime or death, be­fore they can sell a prop­erty.

How­ever it wasn’t just the sav­agery of the way Gonzales killed his fam­ily that shocked the

‘It was a re­ally good feel­ing from the very first time I stepped in­side’

na­tion. It was the over­wrought show of grief anda cal­cu­lated lies he con­structed in or­der to try to prove his in­noce in­no­cence that made him one of the them most haunt­ing killers in mod­ern his­tory.h

With his fam­ily nown dead in­side the hous house, Gonzales drove to his friend’s place, and to­gether the boys vis­ited restau­rant Planet Hol­ly­wood and a video ar­cade.

He re­turned home at 11pm and called po­lice in hys­ter­ics, say­ing he’d dis­cov­ered the slain bod­ies of his fam­ily and claim­ing he’d chased off in­trud­ers.

He ran to neigh­bour John Caulfield’s home, wail­ing and re­count­ing the hor­ror of what he’d seen. When they re-en­tered the house, shocked John watched as Gonzales threw him­self over the bod­ies of his par­ents, hug­ging and try­ing to re­sus­ci­tate them.

“John still lives across the road,” says Jeremy. “He said Sef was car­ry­ing on, he was cry­ing but there were no tears. So he felt some­thing was wrong.”

In the days af­ter the mur­der, Gonzales made an emo­tional tele­vi­sion ap­peal, beg­ging the killers to come for­ward. But he also man­aged to put aside his grief and met with his fa­ther’s ac­coun­tant within 72 hours of the mur­ders – ask­ing how much money his par­ents had and if he could ac­cess it.

Yet it was what Gonzales did at his fam­ily’s joint fu­neral that con­tin­ues to haunt friends and fam­ily. Stand­ing be­fore the three cas­kets, eyes closed, he took to the mic to de­liver an acapella eu­logy of the Mariah Carey/boyz II Men duet One Sweet Day.

Those present can still re­call a strange feel­ing sweep­ing through the crowd as they watched him per­form his bal­lad. For the po­lice, it sim­ply con­firmed what they al­ready knew: this for­mer al­tar boy was a cold-blooded killer.

Af­ter a long in­ves­ti­ga­tion, po­lice dis­proved Gonzales’s al­i­bis, then charged the “charm­ing” stu­dent with the pre­med­i­tated mur­ders of his fam­ily.

Gonzales pleaded not guilty on the grounds of men­tal ill­ness, but psy­chi­atric re­ports ten­dered to the court did not back up his claim. In May 2004 he was found guilty of the three mur­ders and sen­tenced to three con­cur­rent life sen­tences with­out pa­role.

Pat prefers not to know the de­tails of the crimes that took place in the house she now calls home. She thinks it would un­set­tle her. “Ev­ery house has its his­tory and a story to tell, but ours tells a happy story now.

“I know the Gon­za­le­ses were a good fam­ily, and would have liked to know we’ve taken over their home and we’ve been very happy here,” Pat says.

How­ever, Jeremy and Mitch were more cu­ri­ous, and watched a pro­gram on the mur­ders – while sit­ting in the very house in which they oc­curred.

“I used to live in his [Sef’s] room,” says Mitch, who owns a gym down the road. “But it never both­ered me,” he adds.

“When I say where I live, peo­ple in the area do recog­nise it and ask me about what hap­pened. They want to know if it’s freaky to live here, but I don’t be­lieve in crap like spir­its and the su­per­nat­u­ral.”

All three say they’ve never had any­thing strange hap­pen while they’ve been in the house. No un­ex­plained ghostly changes in tem­per­a­ture, spooky sounds or faces ap­pear­ing at the win­dow.

Jeremy has slept in the room where Clo­dine was killed on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions and has al­ways slept soundly. “Al­though I of­ten walk in there and see our dog Max just star­ing at the cor­ner of the room,” he says. Yet when Pat is asked about their dog’s odd ob­ses­sion, she em­phat­i­cally puts it down to pos­sums.

The only other time the crimes oc­cur to Jeremy is in the gar­den. “The mur­der weapons were never found, so some­times I won­der what I’ll find when I’m dig­ging…”

‘The Gon­za­le­ses would’ve liked to know we’ve been very happy here’

Gonzales’s act didn’t fool po­lice.

Gonzales feigns grief at an al­tar set up by his mother at their home. The fam­ily em­i­grated from the Philip­pines af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake of 1990.

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