A Woman Scorned
Updated: May 11
Jennifer San Marco - Age 44
Date of birth: December 6, 1961
Birth Place: Brooklyn, Kings County (Brooklyn), New York, United States of America
Date of Death: January 30, 2006
Place of Death: Goleta, Santa Barbara County, California, United States of America
Residence at time of crime: Milan, New Mexico
Previous criminal record: No - However police had been called regarding incidents of Jennifer disturbing the peace. Feb. 5, 2001
History of mental health: Yes - Delusional and disordered thinking, audio hallucinations, agitated state.
On the 30th of January, 2006 Jennifer San Marco got into her truck and made her way to her old workplace focused on achieving. Without hesitation she arrived at her destination, from the moment she got out of that truck many peoples lives would change forever.
Jennifer methodically shot ex co-workers one after the other before turning her gun on herself.
But what made her do this? what was happening in her life that would result in such a terrible tragedy?
Criminal Behaviours takes a closer look at the San Marco mass shooting.
Jennifer San Marco is a well known Mass shooter due to the rare factor of her being a woman, she has also been referred to as a spree killer by those who study crime. Previous to Jennifer committing the shootings at the postal centre she visited an old neighbour earlier that day and shot her at a separate location killing her.
The term mass shooter and spree shooter will be used interchangeably throughout this article the main difference between the two classifications is:
A mass shooting is the killing of 4 or more people not including the shooter in one public location during one incident.
A spree shooter is the killing of 4 or more people not including the shooter in more than one location where the killings are in close time proximity to one another.
Who is Jennifer San Marco?
Jennifer San Marco was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1961.
She grew up during a time of social change and struggle, during the 1960's Brooklyn saw many government workers striking, crime was on the rise. Large factories that supplied thousands of Brooklyn residents jobs were closing down, plunging the city into poverty and unemployment. This made it hard for many families to make ends meat so money problems were common for the majority.
By the mid 60's racial tensions were high, rioting broke out when nearly four thousand people took to the streets after a young African-American Boy was killed by the police in 1964 coined by the press as the Harlem riots, a few years later in 1967 there was a summer of race related riots across the the USA, a total of 159 riots were recorded across North America that summer, it became known as the "long hot summer of 67".
Following this the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4th 1968 the community once again took to the streets in outrage rioting in protest.
Many of the children growing up during these times were living in uncertainty and really felt the impacts of the economical, political and racial struggles. It was a testing time for the community and the children of that era one that shaped them as people.
As a child Jennifer would play out with the other local children, they played things like stick ball and would hang out after school together to chat and joke around, although Jennifer was shy she would involve herself with other children and was part of a group of friends.
Jennifer rarely spoke to her friends about her home life and not too much is known about how she was with her family or what her home was like.
She attended Brooklyn‘s Edward R. Murrow High School and graduated from there in 1978, then went on to attend Brooklyn College, and finally Rutgers University.
In 1989 Jennifer moved to the West Coast, she got a job as a guard at medium-security Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe for a time and was also a police dispatcher for Santa Barbara, she had a temporary teachers assistant job at one point however she did not keep any of these positions for long and left them abruptly after only a few months into the roles.
During her time in Santa Barbara Jennifer rented a few properties and moved a couple of times between jobs, but in 1997 Jennifer got steady work at the Goleta mail distribution and processing plant, this meant she was able to stop renting and invest into buying property. A little later down the line she bought a condominium in Goleta not far from her workplace.
She lived in an apartment building this is where she met Beverly Graham, her actual relationship with Beverly is mostly unknown. They were neighbours who shared a connecting wall but had been seen by other neighbours having dramatic arguments about the noise Jennifer would make and Beverly had reported Jennifer to the authorities about her loud music, something Jennifer was not happy about.
Jennifers other neighbours also made comments on her odd behaviours while she lived in the apartment in Goleta, saying she would behave strangely and talk to herself, or walk up the street yelling out Beatles songs loudly. These types of things would start to happen more often even at work.
While living in California Jennifer would keep her job in the postal facility in Goleta for a total of 6 years. In general she was classed as a good hard working employee who kept herself to herself, colleagues noted she wasn't rude and would often smile and greet people as she passed them, she wasn't overly chatty but would involve herself from time to time in discussions with people she worked with.
However in the last 2 years of her time at the facility her coworkers noticed changes in her appearance and behaviours. They had noticed she would look unkempt and her make up was applied seemingly with little concern about how it looked. She became more withdrawn than usual and stopped talking to people, she became irritable at little things and was reported at times to be seen talking to herself.
In 2001 nearer the end of her time at the postal facility Jennifer had made a disturbing comment to Dexter Shannon (a fellow employee) over woman who committed suicide that they knew mutually. He was unnerved by the comment so reported her as a cause for concern.
As a result of this on February 5th, 2001 Jennifer was called into the office so she could be asked about what she had said and why she said it.
Jennifer refused to go into the office and started to make a scene, she got very angry and started yelling aggressively at people so the police were called to calm the situation down. Jennifer was still refusing to be spoken to about her comment. Once the police arrived it took two officers to contain her. The officers arrested her for her aggressive behaviour towards her manager and colleagues, it was a forceful arrest because she resisted and fought them.
Due to the nature of her outburst and the other concerns about her behaviour the mental health team were called to do a risk assessment, upon seeing her they decided it was not safe for her to be released and that they needed to a proper evaluation to make a diagnosis and implement the right treatment for Jennifer to manage her issues.
She was committed for 72 hours by a representative of the mental health team under the California Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) 5150 section (a) of the Lanterman–Petris–Short (LPS) Act 5. This allows a person with a mental illness to be involuntarily detained for a 72-hour psychiatric hospitalisation. For an evaluation, diagnosis and treatment plan. Although Jennifer was given a diagnosis and treatment plan she refused it, but was still released once her hold was up.
Jennifer returned to work after this incident, her co-workers said she became very distant and withdrawn after this and wouldn't talk to anyone but still worked. She was agitated and irritable a lot, one employee said she had shouted at them for saying hello and after that he didn't speak to her again. During early 2003 her supervisors were getting reports of her aggressively talking to herself and yelling at no one, they made the decision to retire her from the job based on psychological grounds, she was medically discharged and asked to leave..
Shortly after her medical retirement she put her home up for sale with plans to leave Santa Barbara, telling the few friends she had that she was going to move east to be closer to a sister of hers (to peoples knowledge she had no sisters). The property sold in July 2003 and Jennifer packed up to leave.
She planned to head back to her family driving east on route 66, during the drive her car breaks down near a town called Milan in New Mexico (N.M.). She ends up staying in Grants, N. M. not far from the town of Milan. Jennifer lived in a property just behind a gas station in an A frame standard 2 story home, her garden was large and backed out onto desert.
She was known by the locals during her time in Milan initially as a nice, pleasant woman who didn't cause trouble or act out. But over time this changed somewhat, mirroring the behaviours her coworkers and neighbours had seen at her previous home and workplace in Goleta. Strange behaviours were noticed along with her appearance altering.
There were reports of her going into stores buying items such as bottles of alcohol and food she would then leave the store and throw the items in the bin along with the receipt and any other money she had in her hand at the time. Jennifer was seen doing this by multiple people on different occasions.
On one occasion she stripped in front of customers at Ortega's Propane gas station, this was her local gas station.
The gas station owner said she would come in often, they had a friendly relationship however sometimes she would do or say strange things. Examples he gave were of Jennifer randomly praying on her knees and describes her talking to herself. At times she would look to the left and have conversations with herself about things like there was someone next to her.
The local Milan Village administrators office was another place Jennifer would frequent regularly, she seemed to become attached to a staff member there called Sonya Salazar. Building up a friendly rapport over time she would come in regularly to see Sonya, it got to the point Jennifer would ask to be served by only Sonya, if she was not there Jennifer would get very agitated about it. Around this time Sonya notes that Jennifer was nice to her but had started to become irritable and short tempered with her too. Sonya also noticed a change in Jennifer's overall appearance saying she came in with a short messy haircut like she had just hacked chunks of her hair off and she wouldn't dress as smartly anymore.
In a documentary about Jennifer Sonya describes that one day Jennifer came into the Village administrators office with some documents and was arguing with someone that wasn't there. Jennifer stated that she wanted to apply for a business license to register a business called the racist press. And that she had documents she had written that she wanted to publish. The publications consisted of 5 volumes titled the racist press, these contained mostly ideas of a conspiracy theory. She thought the government could control people via the media (specifically The Rocky Horror Show) they would do this to send messages to people to commit murders on their behalf. The business license was denied.
A while after she was denied her business license she purchased a semi automatic handgun in August 2005 from pawn shop Ace Pawn and Antiques in new mexico. She waited the 15 day waiting period and then picked it up. Jennifer bought a 9mm Smith & Wesson 915, 15 round. She then went into another pawn shop in Gallup, N.M. and bought 200 rounds of reloaded 9mm ammunition.
After this she spent time practising her shooting, there was evidence that she used her back garden for this as many spent rounds were found along with objects used for targets. The investigators that searched her property said the evidence showed she was a good shot.
The Final Moments
Jennifer was getting ready to confront those who had made her life take a turn for the worst, the people she blamed as being responsible for the things she had failed at.
At the end of January 2006 Jennifer got into her truck with her gun, her keys and some cash and she headed back to California from Milan in one straight trip.
She drove via Arizona taking the 1-10 W, she stopped off in Los Angeles at some point during the morning the day of the shooting (30 Jan, 2006). A receipt was found by investigators in her truck showing the time and location of her stop.
This is a 12 hour car trip roughly 818 miles her first stop would be her old apartment to see her old Neighbour Beverly Graham.
It's not clear what happened when Jennifer arrived inside the apartment but it is known that she entered the property by climbing over the wall at the back of the property. There were signs of a struggle in Beverly's apartment, things were broken and messy. Jennifer shot Beverly and left the property got back into her truck and headed towards her old postal workplace.
When Jennifer arrived she was faced with the issue of security checks and security points that required an ID pass. She had a plan to access the building.
As she headed towards the barrier to gain entry into the car park she tail gated a vehicle in front of her meaning the barrier would remain up thinking it was a long vehicle. The plan worked and she was in the car park. She parked her truck about 100 feet from the employee entrance and got out of her truck.
To get through the employee door she would need an ID pass, Jennifer saw a young male employee with a key pass around his neck. She held him up at gunpoint and told him she wouldn't shoot him if he gave her his pass. In fear he obliged and gave it to her, she then told him to get away from the building so he ran. Jennifer turned towards the entrance and headed for it. She sees Ze Fairchild making her way towards the door for work, Jennifer starts to walk towards her once shes close enough she looks directly at Ze Fairchild and shoots her point blank in the head, Jennifer then turns around and heads back towards the employee door.
Jennifer, close to the door notices Maleka Higgins not far from her, walking up to her Jennifer raises the gun and shoots Maleka, close range point blank in the head. Maleka instantly slumps down to the floor. Not phased at all Jennifer turns back and gets close to the door Nicola Grant is about to go in but Jennifer turns to her and shoots her too, some employees eating in the break room had heard the commotion outside and stood up to look through and see what was going on, they see Jennifer walk passed, she looks over to them and smiles as she leaves Nicola dying just outside the entrance. Jennifer heads into the building, inside she makes her way to her old work desk, seeing the Manager Charlotte Colton, she hones in on her as she gets closer she starts shooting each shot fired hit Charlotte.
Jennifer turns into the isle leading toward her old desk she sees Guadalupe Swartz and shoots her 4 times, she looks up at her old desk where Dexter Shannon is working. He hasn't seen or heard any of the commotion because he has headphones in, Jennifer opens fire killing him. So far the victim count is 7.
There's Just one more person left for Jennifer to kill before her works done.
She cocks back the gun and gets ready, turns lifting the gun to her head and shoots.
Jennifers body drops to the floor her hand ceases around the weapon as her body bleeds out surrounded by the chaos she inflicted before making her ultimate escape.
In the end she was in control of her own destiny, no one could take that from her like they had taken her job, taken her rights under the mental health act, taken her freedom to sing and play music.
In Jennifers eyes this was the ultimate revenge.
What Made Jennifer Shoot?
Not much is known about Jennifer in regards to her home life and there's not much available in public records to make any sort of assumption about what it may of been like. However based on what childhood friends recall of her she was generally shy but friendly enough, she had a group of friends and attended school regularly and had male admirers. It was clear Jennifer was a smart young lady as she attended college and went on to get a degree.
On the surface it appears like her childhood was similar to many children who were growing up in that era in Brooklyn. As she gets older and begins to work outside of college and university, becoming independent she seemed to fluctuate between being stable; friendly and organised; to unstable, agitated and disorganised.
This was something that was recalled by most of the people that knew Jennifer in San Marco and in New Mexico. Along with reports of Jennifer having audio and possibly visual hallucinations. She was regularly seen talking to someone that wasn't there.
People that knew her referred to it as, she talked to her "imaginary friend".
These were not the only reports or records of Jennifers behaviour drastically altering from seemingly calm and coherent to irritated and incoherent.
It is clear that Jennifer suffered with issues of mental health, seemingly quite serious ones that drastically altered her day to day functioning and ability to care for herself. People who knew her made comments that she was quite a paranoid person, this was also evident in the documents she was trying to publish under a new business name of the racist press. They contained pages of paranoid assumptions and accusations towards the media, government, medical centres and the police. This reflected her idea that people were trying to control her and sabotage her life.
Although it could seem that mental illness could be a cause this is not always the case, mental illness can act as a catalyst in situations like this rather than a cause for the actions. The person suffering starts to loose the ability to cope while they juggle everyday functioning, maintaining jobs along with managing an illness. Things in their life become magnified, and start to become disorganised and overwhelming.
Small slights in everyday life such as a person bumping into to you by accident as they walk passed get over analysed and become something far more offensive than just a simple mistake. This is a common thought process of a person who has paranoid thinking patterns coupled with anxiety, they perceive the world as 'out to get them' or typically against them in some way and can lead them to holding grudges and feeling resentment towards the people they feel have inflicted these injustices upon them.
There are indicators that Jennifers actions that day were premeditated and well thought out, not something an incoherent person could do or a person who was disoriented as she was described at times. It can take a long time to plan something like this, its not something that is an instant reaction to a situation.
"public mass shooters often pre-planned for weeks to months, sometimes years. Rarely crimes of passion" (Langman 2009; Newman et al, 2004)
Its important to account for the purchase of the gun and target practice before the event, behaviour that was uncommon for Jennifer, she wasn't a known gun enthusiast by people who knew her, so this was out of character even for her.
She also drove directly to the locations of her shootings this is a long trip to carry out (12+ hours) without resting between driving, going to her old apartment block in Goleta to kill Beverly Graham to then drive directly to the Postal Center right on time for the shift start and begin her massacre. Its doubtful her intention was to live beyond this point.
"Most spree killers want to commit suicide, they believe that this life is not worth living. They are so miserable and they don't see another way out, but first they want to get even with everyone responsible for those miseries, that's why they engage in killing sprees" - Jack Levin 2014
But what triggered her to want to shoot and kill masses of people including herself? Its one thing to behave strangely but another thing to plan a mass shooting.
The answer seemed to lie in the locations of the shootings and who the victims were.
The location is generally symbolic or a representation of something they perceive has mistreated, insulted or rejected them. This pattern has been noted in many public mass shootings, the significance of the location is generally the best place to begin when trying to identify a possible link or motive for the crime. Mass shooters "will often target strangers, by standers, or those who represent symbolic targets (e.g. staff members of a company they believe wronged them). - Newman et al (2004)
A federal search warrant was issued by the courts on the 2nd of February 2006 to gain entry to San Marco’s home in Grants, N.M.
Inside they found documents written by Jennifer detailing a conspiracy against her by the postal distribution centre, the Sheriff’s Department and the local medical facility that had held her on the 5150. All of these had been involved with the events leading up to her medical dismissal in 2003.
“She obviously believed that these organizations were out to get her in some way or another and were plotting against her,” - Sgt. Erik Raney 2006
A study done by Adam Lankford in 2016 found that mass shooters in the USA attacked significantly more often at workplaces, offices, schools and commercial sites compared to other countries. The triggers were often related to a persons idea of rejection or failure and their perceived social capital. This is something also noted in studies carried out by Criminologist Jack Levin.
"Most women simply aren't that violent, her killing spree came from a profound belief that her job meant a tremendous amount to her" Jack Levin 2014
In the majority of cases those who commit mass murder will either commit suicide or get killed while being apprehended by the police, in rare cases law enforcement will make an arrest. When they do detain those who commit these crimes it gives Criminologists and Forensic Psychologists the opportunity to learn more about the types of things that may drive a person to commit such a crime.
In cases like Jennifers it is very unlikely she would come out from it alive, witnesses described her as having no hesitation when she shot herself, this was most likely part of her plan. It is unlikely she ever planned to leave that building alive. Leaving people with mostly speculation based on the information she did leave behind.
From what is known about Jennifer and her crimes and what is currently understood about those that commit these crimes, it would seem that Jennifers motivation was resentment coupled with failure and a need for revenge. Something that was perpetuated by her issues with mental health especially her paranoid thinking patterns and ideas of corrupt authorities and medias. Her solution was to target those she felt were responsible for her losses, the same losses that made her want to end her life.
Jennifer San Marco is one of the only solo female mass shooters in American history who caused more than 4 fatalities during her spree. It is very rare for a woman to carry out a public mass shooting like this. Between 1990 -2020 there have only been 3 women in the USA who have carried out mass shootings such as this one.
Details of shooting
Time and Date of mass shooting: January 30, 2006. 7:15 p.m. - 9pm (UTC-09)
Location: Santa Barbara Processing and Distribution Center, Storke Road, Goleta, Santa Barbara County, California, United States of America
Classification: mass shooter/Spree shooter
Nature of offence: Mass murder, Spree shooter, murder-suicide
Number of weapons: 1
Weapon used: Handgun (Pistol) - Smith & Wesson - 15 round - Model number 915 - 9 x 19mm
Motive: Suspected revenge
Evidence of premeditation: Yes - written documented evidence of connection to location, victims & motive found in property of Jennifer San Marco pertaining to issues she perceived as insulting.
Connection to victims: Former US Postal Service Colleagues & Domestic neighbour
Number of locations: 2 - 1 domestic building - 1 Public workplace
Distance between offenders home and locations: roughly 818 miles (12 hour drive)
Includes all people who died from gun shot wounds. Jennifer San Marco is included in this as a victim her cause of death was suicide.
Number of victims: 8
Total Deaths: 8
Beverly Graham - 54 - Relationship to shooter: Neighbour - Suspected Motive: Revenge for noise complaints made against Jennifer San Marco regarding loud music - Died of gunshot wound.
Her body was discovered at her home in Galeto by her boyfriend.
Ze Fairchild - 37 - Relationship to shooter: None - Postal Employee - Died of gunshot wound in facility car park.
Maleka Higgins - 28 - Relationship to shooter: None - Postal Employee - Died of gunshot wound.
Nicola Grant - 42 - Relationship to shooter: None - Postal Employee - Died of gunshot wound.
Guadalupe Swartz - 52 - Relationship to shooter: None - Postal Employee - Died of 4 gunshot wounds.
Charlotte Colton - 44 - Relationship to shooter: None - Postal Employee Manager - Died of gunshot wound. A very active person described as someone who was "always there to help and had a beautiful, positive attitude." She was a regular member of the church and had many community roles outside of work.
Dexter Shannon, 57 - Relationship to shooter: Ex co-worker - Postal Employee - Died of gunshot wound.
Details Surface in Local Mail Facility Shooting Incident
January 1, 2006 at 7:59 am by Mollie Vandor. Daily Nexus University of Santa Barbara: https://dailynexus.com/2006-01-01/details-surface-in-local-mail-facility-shooting-incident/
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Fox, J. A., & Levin, J. (2015). Mass confusion surrounding mass murder. The Criminologist, 40, PP 8-10
Jablon, R. 2006. ―Officials: Ex-Postal Who Worker Went on Rampage Believed She Was Threatened by Conspiracy.‖ Associated Press, February 4 (http://www.lexisnexis.com/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkI nd=true&risb=21_T7264238782&format=GNBFI&sort=null&startDocNo=1&res ultsUrlKey=29_T7264239620&cisb=22_T7264239618&treeMax=true&treeWidt h=0&csi=304478&docNo=1)
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Langman, P. (2009). Rampage school shooters: A typology. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 79–86. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2008.10.003
Lankford, A. (2016). Are America’s public mass shooters unique? A comparative analysis
of offenders in the United States and other countries,
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40:2, 171-183, DOI: 10.1080/01924036.2015.1105144: https://doi.org/10.1080/01924036.2015.1105144
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Police Continue Inquiry Into Shootings 02.02.2006, 07:59. Mollie Vandor, Daily Nexus University of Santa Barbara: https://dailynexus.com/2006-02-02/police-continue-inquiry-into-shootings/
Police Find Probable Motive, New Details In Recent Shooting 02.07.2006, 07:59 Mollie Vandor. Daily Nexus University of Santa Barbara: https://dailynexus.com/2006-02-07/police-find-probable-motive-new-details-in-recent-shooting/
WELFARE AND INSTITUTIONS CODE - WIC
DIVISION 5. COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES [5000 - 5952] PART 1. THE LANTERMAN-PETRIS-SHORT ACT [5000 - 5556]
CHAPTER 2. Involuntary Treatment [5150 - 5349.5] ARTICLE 1. Detention of Mentally Disordered Persons for Evaluation and Treatment [5150 - 5155] -