California · Massacres/Mass Murder

Man accidentally kills self while murdering his family in a house fire

May 29, 1995
San Marino, California
Leonardo Morita kills his wife, three children (10, 14, and 15), and 25-year-old live-in housekeeper in a house fire to collect insurance money

After the explosion, Morita was found by emergency medical teams smelling of gasoline. They noted he had a box of matches and a paper towel in his possession. It was suspected he intended to pour enough gasoline to prevent his sleeping family from escaping, then he would ignite the gasoline using a burning paper towel from a distance to allow his own escape.

Morita had used so much gasoline that the gas seeped through the stairs and onto a water heater’s pilot light. The result was a large explosion which severely injured Morita in the process.

Morita died of burns and injuries on July 6, 1995.

In January, Morita took out a $500,000 policy on his wife and $20,000 on each of his children. He did not take out a policy on himself. Because of this, investigators believed Morita had set the fire purposefully to collect insurance money on his family, though they were never able to question him to confirm their suspicions.

Photo: The San Bernadino County Sun. May 30, 1995

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