For more on holiday-related crimes and murder, tune in to Homicide for the Holidays on December 9 at 8/7c.
Christmas Day 2011 bought a visit from Santa no one was expecting. In the Dallas Fort-Worth suburb Grapevine, Texas, 56-year-old Aziz Yazdanpanah was dressed for the occasion, and dressed to kill. Wearing a Santa costume, Yazdanpanah shot and killed six of his family members, before killing himself.
Yazdanpanah had been estranged from his wife and children after having financial problems. Just after 11am on Christmas morning, Yazdanpanah’s 22-year-old niece, Sara Fatemeh Zarei, sent a text to a friend saying: “'Soo we're here. We just got here and my uncle is here too. Dressed as Santa. Awesome,” and then “'Now he wants to be all fatherly and win father of the year.” How wrong she was.
Over the next four minutes, Yazdanpanah opened fire and shot six of his family members before calling 911 and fatally shooting himself. In the call, Yazdanpanah said “Help, help, I am shooting people.” It took police three minutes to arrive at the scene, where they found half open gifts - and everyone dead. Among the victims were Yazdanpanah’s wife of 24 years, two of their kids, and his in-laws. Many of them had multiple gunshots to the head. Before killing himself, Yazdanpanah placed one of the guns into the hand of his brother-in-law's dead body. He wanted to stage the scene as if he was the shooter.
The chilling crime was believed to have been motivated by Yazdanpanah’s jealousy. His estranged wife seemed to be thriving without him while he struggled financially. Yazdanpanah had apparently been unemployed for over 10 years at the time of the massacre. However, Yazdanpanah’s true motivation will never be known. What is known is that Yazdanpanah had served three years probation in 1996 after entering a guilty plea on the charge of submitting a false tax return, and three years after that, he filed for bankruptcy with his wife. People who knew the family were shocked. They knew there were troubles, but they never expected Yazdanpanah to become violent.
Yazdanpanah isn’t the only murderer to create chaos dressed as Santa, or to commit such a horrific crime on a would-be festive occasion. To see more Santas suited up and ready to kill, watch Oxygen’s Homicide for the Holidays. You might think twice about leaving a glass of milk out for the fat man this year.
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