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Star-Telegram.com

Grapevine gunman is described as protective, conservative

Posted Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011

By Domingo Ramirez Jr. and Mitch Mitchell

ramirez@star-telegram.com,

GRAPEVINE -- Conflicting pictures emerged Tuesday of a Colleyville man who fatally shot six people, including his estranged wife and two children, and then himself on Christmas morning.

A friend of his children described Azizolah "Bob" Yazdanpanah as conservative and protective of his family, saying he didn't want his teenage daughter to date and restricted her cellphone use.

"Aziz had weapons for protection and cameras in the house," said Allison Baum, 18, who was a classmate of Nona and Ali Yazdanpanah at Colleyville Heritage High School.

"He knew what bad people could do. He was very upset when the mother moved out."

Baum said Nona had told her that her parents had an arranged marriage and were no longer in love.

One woman who was part of a happy hour group that included Yazdanpanah described him as a sweet man who didn't talk about family problems.

"He was outgoing, kind and adored his children," said Colleen Gedrose, an acquaintance from Bedford. "I never saw him angry."

Gedrose said she had spoken with him two or three times.

Another woman, however, said she received a puzzling text message from Yazdanpanah on Dec. 4, a few months after his wife and two children moved out of their Colleyville home and into a Grapevine apartment complex, where the shootings occurred.

The message, the friend said, went like this: "What do u call a guy who's born in Austin and grows up in Dallas and then dies in Grapevine? ......... DEAD."

"He was always telling a joke," said the friend, who asked that her name not be used because she doesn't want to get involved. "But when he sent me this, I thought it was weird. I didn't even respond."

What police know

On Christmas morning, police have said, a middle-aged man dressed in a Santa Claus suit shot and killed a man, a teenage boy and four women and then himself inside a unit at the Lincoln Vineyards Apartments in the 2500 block of Hall-Johnson Road. The attack was planned, investigators said.

On Tuesday, the Tarrant County medical examiner's office released the names and ages of the dead. Grapevine police confirmed the relationships.

They are:

■ Azizolah Yazdanpanah, 56, who was "responsible for the deaths of the victims," according to a police news release.

■ Fatemeh Rahmati, 55, Yazdanpanah's estranged wife.

■ Their children, Nona Yazdanpanah, 19, and Ali Yazdanpanah, 14.

■ Rahmati's sister, Zohreh Rahmaty, 58; her husband, Mohamad Hossein "Cyrus" Zarei, 59; and their daughter, Sara Zarei, 22.

All the victims were shot in the head; Cyrus Zarei was also shot in the chest and abdomen, the Tarrant County medical examiner's office reported Tuesday. The medical examiner has not ruled on the manner of the deaths.

Police recovered two handguns in the apartment -- a 9 mm and a .40-caliber, at least one of which Yazdanpanah had owned for years. One was found next to the gunman, and the other next to a victim, police said.

The .40-caliber gun can hold 10 rounds and the other 15, police said. One round was left in each weapon, and both were used in the shooting, police said. But they declined to say how many rounds were fired.

"We found a receipt for one weapon dated 1996," police Lt. Todd Dearing said. "It wasn't like he just bought them a few weeks ago."

'Just kind people'

Cyrus Zarei was an administrator at the Twilight Home, a nursing home, in Corsicana for about two years and was trying to develop an event-planning business at the Cedar Canyon Dude Ranch in Lancaster, friends said.

He commuted from his home in Irving to the Twilight Home, where owner Grady Burris said he was known for being friendly and caring. Many residents were taking his death hard, particularly one man who had breakfast with him each day.

"He told me Cyrus was like a brother to him," Burris said. "Every day they would eat and talk about sports and the news and the world. He told me, 'I don't know how I'm going to go on without him.' There's a void here that we will never be able to fill. He knew he made a difference in people's lives here and he enjoyed it."

The Zarei family was known for helping anyone in need, whether that need was financial or emotional, friends said.

Family members often welcomed military troops home at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, and Zohreh Rahmaty volunteered for a group that helped feed homeless people. Friends said she spent much of the holidays asking for help collecting food.

Sherry Ghafar met Rahmaty and Zarei after waking from a coma in 1982 following a car wreck. The couple had learned of Ghafar through a mutual friend and visited her in the hospital as often as they could.

"We have been best friends ever since," Ghafar said. "That's how they were. They were just kind people. They had a heart for everybody. Our children grew up together. Our daughters were supposed to be each other's bridesmaids one day."

Sara Zarei had attended North Hills School, a charter school in Irving, before enrolling at the University of Texas at Arlington where she was in the Delta Delta Delta sorority, friends said. She called herself "Sahra" on her social media sites and at the sorority.

No struggle

The victims were found beside open gifts near a Christmas tree in the apartment, police have said. Three of them were in the apartment when the man in the Santa Claus suit showed up, police said Tuesday. Three others arrived moments later.

One of the victims texted to a friend at 11:16 a.m. Sunday that they were celebrating Christmas.

In an interview with police after the shooting, an apartment resident reported seeing a man in a Santa suit at a vehicle about 11:30 a.m.

"Was he going out to get the weapons or had the shooting already occurred? We're not sure," police Sgt. Robert Eberling said Tuesday.

Police received a 911 call from the complex at 11:34 a.m. A dispatcher heard someone who sounded out of breath saying, "Help, help" before the line was disconnected, authorities said Tuesday.

When a patrol officer arrived, he saw bodies slumped around the living room. No one answered the door, and officers forced their way in.

"There were no signs of a struggle," Eberling said.

Troubled family life

Tarrant County court records indicate that Yazdanpanah filed for divorce on April 1, 2002, and his wife filed April 3, 2002. The cases were dismissed on April 17, 2002.

In his filing, Yazdanpanah gave the date of their marriage as Aug. 22, 1986. Her filing gave the date as Aug. 21, 1987.

Property records indicate that the couple faced foreclosure three times on their Colleyville home during the 2000s. The final notice was sent in August 2010. Yazdanpanah still lived in the house, friends said.

Records also showed that the Yazdanpanahs had filed for bankruptcy four times from October 1999 to August 2010.

A Colleyville neighbor said the family had at least two large garage sales this year where home furnishings, including Christmas decorations, were sold.

The neighbor, Carrie Stewart, said she had not seen Fatemeh Rahmati since March.

Yazdanpanah had told neighbors that they needed to watch out for a man in a white pickup because he had verbally harassed his daughter.

"Aziz told us that he had a gun and would not hesitate to use it to protect his daughter," Stewart said. "We think that after that he might have carried the gun with him all the time."

Staff writers Eva-Marie Ayala and Sandra Baker and news researcher Cathy Belcher contributed to this report.

Domingo Ramirez Jr.,

817-390-7763

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

Twitter: @stcrime

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