Early that morning, the out-of-work, 40-year-old posted a suicide note on Facebook and at 4 a.m. called police to say he had shot his 35-year-old wife and her parents. He also said he was going to shoot himself.
Police rushed to his Jack London Court home and finally entered the house at 9 a.m. to find Aube and his family members dead.
Media reports quoted police as saying that Aube's "financial stresses led to the shooting." Aube and his wife, Cynthia Tiburcio-Aube, had filed for bankruptcy in 2009, saying they owned more than $500,000 for a home valued at $200,000, according to news reports.
The shooting and the couple's plight, "increasingly common in the county's prolonged economic downtown," prompted Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover to release a statement, which, according to the Contra Costa Times, urged residents in similar straits to seek help by calling resources such as 211, the county's emergency help line.
"This tragedy is the worst outcome you can think of resulting from the pressures of today's world," Glover told the Times. "For this family, it looks like the pressures became too much, and the world came crashing down."
The news stories, and Glover's statement, suggest that the economy and "the pressures of today's world" caused this tragedy.
Given my politics, I usually would be one of the first to point the finger of blame at ethically challenged bankers or spineless and possibly insider-trading politicians for creating the conditions that led to the recession, the housing crisis and tragedies like this murder-suicide. But with this particular situation, my immediate thought was "Not everyone who has faced foreclosure over the past few years had taken a gun and opened fire on his loved ones and himself."
I also re-read some of what has been uncovered about the psychological profile of people who commit what's called familicide. I say "re-read" because I worked pretty extensively on researching murder-suicides for a story I did for Diablo magazine on a San Ramon mother who killed herself and her 3-year-old daughter.
In an article, "Murder-Suicide in Families," the National Institute of Justice says that in almost all cases of familicide the killer is a white male. The leading risk factors are:
- A prior history of domestic violence
- Prior history of poor mental health or substance abuse, especially alcohol
- Threats, especially increased threats with increased specificity
But a domestic violence professional, echoing the views of other mental health experts, was quoted as saying that a bad economy doesn't make someone abusive. It just takes someone who is already abusive and "increases the frequency and severity of abuse," the article said.
So far, there has been no indication of a history of domestic violence or substance abuse in the Aube household. Obviously, though, Aube has access to firearms.
The National Institute of Justice article says that the very low number of murder-suicides -- compared to other violent crimes -- makes it hard for researchers to understand exactly what role the economy plays.
"What is known is that economic distress is a factor, but it is only one of several factors that trigger a man to murder his family. In most cases, the couple has a history of disagreement over many issues," the article says. Yes, a man's job loss may be a "critical factor" leading to a murder-suicide. "But most experts agree that the strength or weakness of the national economy is not related to the frequency of murder-suicides, despite media coverage that suggests otherwise."