Police say shooter may have been on meth

Joel Humberto Corrales-Vega may have been under the influence of methamphetamine — or other drugs — when he kicked in the door to his ex-girlfriend's house early Thursday morning in southwest Wichita and shot her, her two young girls and her mother-in-law, police said Friday.

Corrales-Vega, 37, then turned the gun on himself in the hallway next to the girls' bedroom door in the 2300 block of South Stoney Point, south of Kellogg and west of Maize Road, Lt. Ken Landwehr said.

Reimy Rivera, 6, was killed by multiple shots from Corrales-Vega's large-caliber handgun, Landwehr said. Her older sister, 9-year-old Dayanara Rivera, is in "very guarded" condition and on a ventilator at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, he said.

"She has improved," Landwehr said of the wounded child.

Her mother and grandmother, identified in police records as Gloria Morales, 30, and Elana Demeritus, 56, are both expected to survive their injuries, he said.

Corrales-Vega fired at least nine shots during his rampage, Landwehr said, which began just after 3:20 a.m. He had called Morales at about 11 p.m. the previous night and threatened to come over and kill her and her family, police have said.

He arrived a little more than four hours later in his beige Cadillac Escalade, blocking the driveway of the house.

Demeritus was his first victim, Landwehr said. She was in her bedroom and was shot several times, including at least once in her chest.

Corrales-Vega shot Morales once in the leg, then went to the bedroom shared by the young girls and shot each of them several times in their beds, before turning the gun on himself.

Police aren't sure where Morales was when she was shot. She was able to move around after she was wounded, Landwehr said. Officers found her in a front room when they arrived.

Morales' 38-year-old brother was asleep in the basement when Corrales-Vega arrived. By the time he came upstairs to see what had happened, Landwehr said, it was all over.

Investigators aren't sure yet of Corrales-Vega's motive, Landwehr said.

He was carrying a Mexico driver's license with the name Valentin Vega-Soto. But when authorities ran his fingerprints through a variety of databases — including those of the FBI and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement — they discovered his actual name.

He has been deported to Mexico twice, police said, and also has a criminal history in the United States.

Federal court records in Arizona show that Corrales-Vega was convicted in July 2006 of aggravated assault in Maricopa County and sentenced to more than three years in jail.

He was deported in October 2007, court records show, and admitted to illegally re-entering the U.S. in late July 2008. About 10 days later, he was pulled over for a traffic violation by a Glendale, Ariz., police officer.

He pleaded guilty to re-entering the country illegally and was sentenced to 15 months in prison, including time served. He was released on Sept. 18, 2009.

Morales and Corrales-Vega met about two months ago and began dating — including going to Disneyland with Reimy and Dayanara — but the relationship ended soon after their return, police have said.

Corrales-Vega, who apparently worked in construction, stayed for a while at a house at on South Richmond owned by Morales, Landwehr said Friday. At the time of the shooting, however, he was living in a hotel in north Wichita.

Investigators found about an ounce of what appears to be meth in Corrales-Vega's SUV after the shooting, Landwehr said. A toxicology screen is being conducted to see whether he was under the influence of meth or other substances at the time of the shooting.

It will be several weeks before those answers are known, Landwehr said.

Corrales-Vega did not appear to be impaired when he spoke to police officers in a hospital parking lot shortly before 10 p.m. Wednesday, Landwehr said. He had called 911 to report that he thought two men were following him, and at least one of them was armed.

Officers found him and talked to him, Landwehr said, but found no evidence to support his claim.

Bouts of rage and paranoia are common side effects of regular meth use, Lt. Mitch Dunbar said.

"It depends on the user and their mental state when they ingest, and how the body processes it," Dunbar said.

Regular users of meth typically ingest quantities measured in grams, or fractions of an ounce, he said.

"If you have an ounce of meth, it's going to be beyond personal use," Dunbar said. "Typically, if a guy has got an ounce of meth, we're going to book him for possession with intent to sell."

Investigators have talked to Morales and hoped to talk to the grandmother to learn more about the events surrounding the shooting, he said.

The conversations with the mother have been "very disjointed," Landwehr said. "She's very upset."

Investigators are trying to piece together Corrales-Vega's movements in the hours leading up to the shooting. No criminal charges are anticipated in the case.

"There's absolutely nothing that they did wrong that we can see," Landwehr said of the family. "We're just trying to find the answers and help the family along as much as we can."