Tribe prepares to bury 5 slain members in Calif.

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 10, 2012 at 10:42 pm •  Published: December 10, 2012
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Celaya had previously served jail time in 2008 on an assault and battery charge, to which he pleaded no contest. The judge ordered him to not have weapons as a condition of three years' probation.

He served more time in jail again in 2009 after pleading no contest to a DUI charge.

In 2002, when he was 20, he pleaded no contest to DUI, paid a fine and was sentenced to an alcohol awareness program.

"It is a tragic event for all involved and will take a lot of healing," Blain, a retired Porterville Police Department lieutenant, said of the slayings. "We need to look at what brought us to this point and how to prevent it in the future. Our goal is not to arrest people but to get them to resolve their differences."

Now, however, nerves are raw. A tribal council member reacted angrily when an Associated Press reporter showed up Monday to talk with Hunter. He shouted that no media are allowed on tribal lands "by orders of the family." A tribal police officer politely escorted the reporter off the property.

Police say Celaya opened fire in a travel trailer on the reservation of about 800 people on Saturday night, killing his mother and two uncles. He left behind his seriously wounded 6-year-old son Andrew. He took with him Alyssa, whose name is tattooed on his right leg, and his other daughter, 5-year-old Linea.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Chris Douglass said it was unclear when Celaya shot his daughters.

Tribal members said the former custodian at the reservation's Eagle Mountain casino had a troubled past.

Hunter said Celaya's mother was a friend of hers. The Tulare County Sheriff's Department, which is investigating the case, identified her 60-year-old Irene Celaya.

"She was always a positive person," Hunter said. "Every time I saw here she gave me a big hug. She was a positive person no matter what situation she was in."

Authorities said the bodies of Irene Celaya and her 61-year-old brother, Francisco Moreno, were found in the trailer. The body of their 53-year-old brother, Bernard Franco, was in a shed that was a makeshift bedroom.

Hunter said Irene took care of her brothers and extended family.

The remote reservation with no industry or businesses outside of the Smoke Shack that sells sundries and cigarettes relies on Eagle Mountain Casino for revenues. Each tribal member receives $500 a month, but Hunter said most of the profit is invested into educational programs for the children.

Deputies found Celaya by tracking his cellphone. A chase ensued, though Celaya never exceeded the speed limit, and he eventually pulled over in the heart of citrus country outside the tiny community of Lindsay. Celaya opened fire, prompting deputies to shoot back, Douglass said.

The church bells of Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church toll slowly when a tribal member dies, and the mournful sound echoes through the canyon where the reservation sits. It's how the word is spread. They rang out five different times on Sunday.

It means five graves need to be prepared, which tribal members started with an assist from the reservation fire fighters.

"You don't anticipate those types of things occurring here," Blain said. "You hear about them occurring in other places. ... It's unfortunate it happened here, because there were children involved who had no control or say over their destiny."

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Reach Tracie Cone at http://www.twitter.com/TConeAP .