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Erin Hallissy, Lori Olszewski, Chronicle East Bay Bureau
Published 4:00 am, Saturday, September 21, 1996
The San Ramon woman who died with her three children in a fiery crash left behind scribbled notes that only deepened the mystery haunting her relatives and friends yesterday: How could a devoted mother deliberately kill almost her entire family. Maureen Barbieri, who suffered from depression, left three pages filled with what appeared to be shopping lists, accounts of meals at restaurants and doodled faces — and the cryptic comment, “This is our last night!”
The note, which also contained references to the anti-depressive medication Prozac, was found by her husband, Thomas Barbieri, on Thursday, hours after Maureen Barbieri dressed their young children and left the house at 1:05 a.m. in the family’s Toyota station wagon.
The car was found engulfed in flames at 2:52 a.m. in the Hayward Hills. Yesterday, the Alameda County coroner’s office reported that Barbieri and her children — Christopher, 8, Melinda, 6, and Matthew, 2 — all died of blunt trauma and incineration. San Ramon police said the Barbieris had been having marital problems and that police had been called to the home three times in the past week because of verbal disputes.
Thomas Barbieri could not be reached for comment yesterday. Police said that he was in shock over the deaths and that although he knew she was troubled, he had no idea his wife was suicidal.
“The father’s comment was that he had just wished to God that he had gotten in the car that night,” said San Ramon police Sergeant Bill Abbey. “He didn’t expect anything like this. He said `I never dreamt that she’d hurt the kids.’ ”
None of the people who knew Maureen Barbieri through Twin Creeks School, where Christopher and Melinda were enrolled, believe that the crash was deliberate. They said she loved her children too much to kill them.
“From my heart, I tell you she did not do it,” said Barbieri’s neighbor, Karen Homan, as she left a counseling session at the school. “She was a loving mother. She would not take away the last thing she had, which was those kids. I think it was some kind of accident.”
Harold Figueroa, who lives near the Barbieri residence in the quiet, middle-class neighborhood of trim condominiums and houses, said Maureen Barbieri was outgoing and involved in the area, often engaging people in conversation.
“She liked to talk,” he said. “You’d go to the mailbox, and she’d want to burn your ear off.”
Figueroa said he had noticed no change in Barbieri in recent weeks, but officers indicated that things were stormy at the household. Police reports show that arguments with her husband, to whom she had been married more than 10 years, had culminated with three 911 calls in the past week.