The Horrific McDonald's Massacre | James Huberty | Part One

(Police on the scene with distressed McDonald's employees, 18th of July, 1984 outside of the McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, San Diego, California. Photo credit: historycollection

This past week I've been looking into one of the most horrific cases in American history. In 1984 the massacre that took place at the McDonald's restaurant in the San Ysidro area of California at the hands of a crazed gunman, was said to have been the deadliest mass shooting in the United States up until the Luby's Massacre in 1991.

I'd read about this case previously and was surprised that a lot of people I'd spoken to about it had never heard of the case before so I thought I would do more research about what happened and bring you the story here. 

Before I begin, as with all of the cases that I cover, please be aware that disturbing details are included in my coverage of this case. 

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Now onto this week's case...

It was just a normal Wednesday afternoon as the clock approached 4pm on Wednesday the 18th of July, 1984. The McDonald's restaurant in the San Ysidro area of San Diego, California was busy as usual. It was a warm day with customers coming back and forth ordering ice cold milkshakes and ice cream and people sitting inside to have some french fries and burgers with their friends and families. It was just a typical day and as the customers ate their meals and the staff continued working their shifts, nobody could have envisioned that an hour later the building would be surrounded by police, some customers would be seriously injured and others shot dead whilst the man who created all of the horror laid on the floor, lifeless from a snipers' bullet. This horrific event would become Americas' worst deadliest shooting from 1984 to 1991. It is now the seventh-deadliest mass shooting in the US. 

James Oliver Huberty was born in Canton, Ohio on the 11th of October 1942, to parents Earl V and Icle. His parents already had a daughter, Ruth who was 4 years old at the time James was born and his parents where firm believers in the Methodist movement and they raised their children according to those beliefs. Earl V was a hardworking man who worked at a steel mill to support his family but he had dreams of owning his own farm one day. 

All seemed to be well with the family until James turned three and was struck down with polio. James suffered for a long time with painful symptoms and had to wear braces on his legs as the illness had caused them to become crooked and he struggled with walking. Having to wear braces on his legs made James very self conscious and he became the target of bullies at school. As a result of the bullies and his complex about his legs, James developed social phobia and became withdrawn, preferring to be on his own, away from other people. 

By the time 1950 came around, there was a lot of disruption in James' life. His father decided that he wanted to move his family to a farm that he had bought in the Pennsylvania Amish Country which didn't go down too well with Icle who refused to move there. The dispute over where the family was going to live, resulted in Icle walking out on her family to become a sidewalk preacher for a Southern Baptist organisation, she claimed that this was ''her calling''. James, who was 7 at the time and his sister Ruth, struggled to come to terms with their mother leaving them. It was something that James never fully accepted and troubled him for years. 

Despite Icle walking out on her family, Earl was determined to make a success of his new farm and new life for himself and his two children. James continued to struggle with his mother not being around and although the braces were no longer on his knees and the symptoms had stopped, he was left with a strange way of walking which further troubled him through elementary and high school. He continued to be teased by his classmates and even more so when they had found out that James was from a broken home. 

James continued more and more to distance himself from people and tried to avoid social situations as much as possible, he had little to no friends. Things at home were financially difficult with his father still having to work nights to make ends meet so he was hardly at home. Years later, the neighbours would describe James as a very lonely boy who seemed to prefer the company of his dog and the farm animals to people. 

As well as being lonely and unsociable, James developed an obsession with guns and would shoot cabbages and other objects as a form of entertainment. 

By the time he graduated in 1960 from Waynedale High, he was so in the background that when former classmates were asked years later what he was like at school, nobody could remember him. It was almost like he'd never attended the school at all. 

After his graduation, James attended Malone college where he studied Sociology. He became interested in Mortuary Science and decided to move to the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to study and it was there that he met substitute teacher Etna Markland who would become his girlfriend. Whilst studying, James became an intern at Don Williams Funeral Home, he managed to hold down the job for two years despite occasions where he would act inappropriately towards mourners who were attending services at the home. Sometimes after a service, the grieving friends and relatives of the deceased would take a little while to gather themselves and this would annoy James who wanted everyone out of the building as soon as the service was finished. James had no people skills or empathy and came across as quite heartless towards people. He would pace up and down after the services and chunter to himself ''Get out, Get out'' and if that didn't work, he would switch all of the lights off. 

His mentor at the time, Don Williams said ''He simply wasn't cut out for this profession. He acted like he just wanted to be left alone.'' 

Despite James' behaviour at the funeral home, he completed his internship and obtained his licence for embalming and married Etna Markland. He changed his mind about a career as an embalmer and took a job as a welder at a nearby utility plant. Don Williams later said ''I told him he was in the wrong business. He was a good embalmer but just didn't relate to people. That's why he was better as a welder. He could just pull that mask down and be by himself.''

By 1971 James and Etna had moved into a large redbrick house in a middle class area (107 Sixth St NE) of Massillon, Ohio. It wasn't long till the couple started a family and they had two daughters, Zelia who was born in 1972 and Cassandra in 1974. They seemed like the picture perfect family and financially secure with James painted as the hardworking family man but behind the scenes all was not as it seemed.

Continued in part two...

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Check out some of the true crime cases I have covered previously:

Wicked Child | The Mary Bell Case

What Really Happened To India Chipchase?

The Sylvia Likens Case

The Tragic Life & Death of Marvin Gaye

The Camden Ripper: Anthony John Hardy

Deadly Obsession: The Ricardo Lopez Story

Targeted: The Kriss Donald Story

-Toxic Relationship: The Tracie Andrews Story

Stalked To Death: The Alissa Blanton Story

Rod Ferrell And The Kentucky Vampire Cult

What Happened To Dominique Dunne?




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