“I just saw the flames shooting up. (It was) just outrageous, it was too much,” said Vanessa Silvestro. “It is one of those unspeakable, in denial things you don’t want to believe.”
Investigators said at least seven people were in that home. Next door neighbor Pedro Castillon awoke to screaming and saw the fire. He broke into the burning home and pulled one family member out. Castillon burned his feet and cut his head trying to rescue more victims.
“There was a lot of smoke and fire,” he said. “I didn’t have shoes on. I tried to get to the kids and it was too much.”
Jose Aguilar, 38, and his two sons – Ricardo, 13 and Adolfo, 7 – died in the fire. The boys’ mother, a 10-year-old sister, a baby sister and another family member made it out alive.
Investigators determined the fire an arson, saying it started in the dining room.
At 3:14 a.m. and four-and-a-half miles away, medics and police responded to another woman, 33-year-old Maria Delores, stabbed multiple times inside an apartment in the 1100 block of Whitfield Court. She was transported to an Elkhart hospital where she underwent surgery for her wounds.
Police identified a possible suspect and suspect vehicle a short time later. At 4:50 a.m., Goshen police spotted the suspect’s white Ford Mustang and chased it to a farm field off County Road 28. Elkhart Police Lt. Todd Thayer said police used stop sticks to attempt to deflate the suspect’s tires.
As police tried to get the person inside that car to surrender, it burst into flames.
“We did have verbal contact with him. He was pretty defiant,” explained Lt. Thayer. “We didn’t have much as far as rapport with him.”
Investigators said that person died but they stopped short of confirming it as the suspect responsible for the crime spree, saying they had to make a positive identification of the body, which could take some time since it was badly burned.
Jose Aguilar, who co-workers and neighbors say also went by Gustavo, worked at MOR/ryde International – a metal fabrication plant four blocks from his home.
“He worked in our shipping department. He was a great worker, a great guy,” said MOR/ryde International Human Resources manager Tracy Morita. “He’s been with us since 1998 – key employee, almost perfect attendance. He’s well known and well liked.”
Ricardo Aguilar was in the 8th grade at North Side Middle School and his little brother Adolfo was in the 2nd grade at Beardsley Elementary. Elkhart Community Schools’ Student Services Director told WSBT both schools mobilized their “Tough Times” teams and brought in counselors to help with grieving students and staff Monday. Those counselors are expected to be on hand for the next few days.
Adolfo Aguilar and his 10-year-old sister frequented the Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart, said club director Ryon Wheeler. Adolfo often played with two other little boys and club staff dubbed them the “three amigos.” Wheeler said the Boys and Girls club will now rally around surviving members of the Aguilar family. The club set up a fund to help cover funeral expenses and provide for the family.
To donate, send money to:
Aguilar Family Fund
P.O. Box 1538
c/o Boys & Girls Club
Elkhart, IN 46514
1:45 a.m. - Officers dispatched to Mediterranean Avenue stabbing
1:50 a.m. - Officers dispatched to Grant Street fire
3:14 a.m. - Officers dispatched to Whitfield Court stabbing
4:50 a.m. - Pursuit of vehicle and apparent suspect suicide
WSBT has crews following this story. Stay with us for updates.