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Shooting shatters family

CERES — The girlfriend of a Ceres man who died Sunday in a gunfight said she can't stop asking herself one question: How could this happen again?

Olivia Valdovinos, 25, said she watched her cousin, Timothy Carrillo of Ceres, shoot her boyfriend, Pete Garcia, 29, of Ceres, and his friend Cary Thompson Jr., 22, of Modesto early Sunday morning.

Valdovinos' husband, Cendelario Manuel Valdovinos, 30, also died of a gunshot wound in 2003. A fight broke out at a New Year's party in west Modesto, and he was shot and killed.

"I just never thought I would feel this terrible feeling again," she said. "After losing the kids' father, I was so happy to finally find Pete. Now I'm sad again. All alone."

Valdovinos said the argument that led to the deaths of Garcia and Thompson was started by a cousin who stopped by early Sunday morning to pick up her keys. The woman, whom Valdovinos did not identify, was eating a slice of pizza in Valdovinos' kitchen when she started to argue with Garcia.

Her cousin, Valdovinos said, began to criticize Garcia for his lifestyle; Garcia liked to go to clubs and party with his friends, Valdovinos said.

"'You're lucky you have my cousin. She loves you so much,'" Valdovinos remembered her cousin saying. "There was cussing. (My cousin) had been drinking."

Valdovinos asked her cousin to leave. While Valdovinos was in another room, she said, her cousin started saying that Garcia hit her.

"I didn't see it," Valdovinos said, "but from what I understand, his fingers barely tapped her nose."

That's when the cousin, who also lives in the apartment complex, called another cousin — Carrillo, Valdovinos said.

When Carrillo arrived, Valdovinos said, she tried to stop him from entering the apartment. She couldn't, and Carrillo and Garcia exchanged gunfire, she said.

Garcia died at Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, Ceres police Sgt. Allen McKay said.

Thompson, who had been visiting the couple and was planning to stay overnight, also was shot and killed in the exchange.

Carrillo was hit, too, McKay said. He had surgery Sunday at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. As of Monday afternoon, Carrillo remained in critical condition, according to his father.

Monday, Valdovinos said she still couldn't believe Garcia is dead. Blood from the shooting had hardened on her kitchen floor. Bullet holes, marked by police tags, marred the metal screen door and door frame.

She remembers standing between the fighting men, feeling a bullet nearly part her hair.

"I just can't stop seeing it in my head, how it happened," she said. "I just keep seeing it. I keep getting sick."

Valdovinos has another reason for her nausea. She said she is two months pregnant and that Garcia is the father. She said Garcia was excited about the baby and had chosen possible names: Romeo, if the baby is a boy, and Nevaeh ( "heaven" spelled backward) if it's a girl.

Although the couple had been together for only 16 months, Valdovinos said Garcia was like a father to her two children, Letty, 8, and Champ, 5. He was "always paying attention to them," whether he was taking them to a pumpkin patch at Halloween or letting them play with his hair, spiking it and putting it into a mohawk, while the family watched television.

"My son, I don't know if he really understands we're not going to see Pete again," she said. "My daughter does. She just cried herself to sleep last night."

McKay said there were no other shooting suspects at this time, and no arrests have been made.

"There's no new information. It's too soon," Detective Sgt. Jeff Higgenbotham said. "I don't expect to see any."

Thompson's family could not be reached for comment, but he had a MySpace page that his cousin, who called herself Tameka, updated after his death.

"[H]e wuz (sic) a very lovin (sic) and understanding person and had hate for no one," she wrote. "[H]e wuz (sic) a loving person to all of hiz (sic) family and friends and would have never let anything happen to any of us he loved tupac and scary movies he was really in to (sic) his life and he wuz (sic) going to [F]resno city college."

Carrillo's family declined requests for an interview pending a lawyer's approval, but Carrillo's father, also named Tim Carrillo, of Arizona, said his son was a devoted father of four.

He said his son had a difficult childhood and that he lacked a strong male role model.

"It always starts with your upbringing," he said. Speaking of himself in the third person, he added, "His dad had other things to do. I was one of those fathers."

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at 578-2235 or eraguso@modbee.com.

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