Unmasked: The Gonzales Family Killer by Kara Lawrence

2006-11-03t20_12_00-08_00.jpgHarper Collins Publishers. 390 pages.

I still remember when my family and I read the papers (back in Manila) about this massacre. I remember my father, staring at Sef Gonzales’ photograph, said, “I have a feeling he killed his family.” As with all murder cases, the surviving family (or closest family/relation) is the immediate suspect.

True enough, three years after the murder, Sef Gonzales was found guilty of killing his father, (Teddy Gonzales), mother (Loiva Gonzales) and (only) sister (Clodine Gonzales). He was sentenced to serve three terms of life imprisonment. (But just a few days ago, I read on the news he was allowed a case appeal.)

It was truly hard to put down this chilling book. When I first saw it in the bookshop, I stood for hours reading the book. I ended up not getting it because i still had a long list of TBRB (to be read books). My husband got me a copy as a gift for our 1st anniversary of getting civily registered. (how romantic)

Anyhow, I took this book with me for an out of town wedding weekend trip, and even then, I was still glued to the book. And it scared me so much that every small Asian guy I see reminded me of Sef–the killer!

Overall, it’s an extremely well researched book. The author has gone on several trips to the Philippines, particulary in Baguio, where the Gonzales family are from–in an attempt to interview the relatives and to try to figure out the kind of family the Gonzaleses are. Very objective, without the unnecessary drama and build up that most ‘true to life case’ books are full of.

The author has followed this case closely that the book contains actual courtroom dialogues (condensed) and police interviews.

Footnotes were entirely excluded but the author explained that she did this for purpose of uninterrupted reading. And I appreciate the consideration because this is truly an engaging read and the last thing you need are little interruptions.

It’s still very chilling to imagine how a son and brother could do such a calculated murder of his family. And the facade he shows. He still holds his claim that he is not guilty of the murders (though ALL physical evidences lead to him and him alone).

A description of how Sef acted on the funeral of his family:

“This was the same young man who was able to stand in front of the coffins of his family, deliver a eulogy for his father and sing, eyes closed, with no accompaniment, the Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men duet One Sweet Day.

Sorry I never told you/All I wanted to say
Now it’s too late to hold you/’cause you’ve flown away, so far away
Never had I imagined living without your smile …
And I know you’re shining down on me from Heaven/like so many friends we’ve lost along the way.
And I know eventually we’ll be together/One Sweet Day.

A feeling of intense strangeness rippled through the church that day; it seemed to confirm what police knew. It jarred in the minds of friends. “He seemed sad, but so calm at the funeral,” said one. “There were the three caskets in front of him holding the mutilated bodies of his family and he started to sing . . . it was really strange.”

ONCE [his parents] were dead, Sef became sole beneficiary of the will and was able to live the life he wanted, free from their control. Within 72 hours of his parents’ murders, Sef met his father’s accountant to find out how much money they had and whether anyone else had tried to get it. He embarked on a long legal battle to use his parents’ $1.5 million estate to fund his legal defence, but was unsuccessful.
In the ensuing months he put deposits on a Porsche and Lexus SC430, quelling the disquiet of the car dealers’ concerns about such a young man asking to test drive their best cars by saying he was expecting an inheritance from overseas. He also tried to pawn his mother’s jewellery; he did sell her watch. And he moved into an 11th-floor apartment in Chatswood, furnishing it with the yellow lounge from his parents’ house while he advertised their cars, selling them without his grandmother’s permission.

In the 11 months between the killings and charges being laid, he was out clubbing. His main concerns were thoughts of an impending singing career, having been a singer in an a cappella band (Definite Vibez), and was free to indulge his vanity, collecting more than 15 bottles of aftershave.”


It’s so scary to imagine how ordinary and normal he seemed. If my father was still alive, I would definitely give this book to him.

I certainly hope this guy’s appeal won’t be granted. Now that I’m in the same country as he is.

Shites, I should stop reading these kinds of books. But I can’t help it. It’s not even fiction indulgence. Nor is it tabloid.





Sef Gonzales, the murderer. *shudder, shudder*





the Gonzales victims Loiva, Clodine and Teddy


15 responses to “Unmasked: The Gonzales Family Killer by Kara Lawrence


    That is a great review. I live in Chatswood which is reasonably close to North Ryde, where the murders took place. I have NEVER read a crime story but I am intrigued by this case so I was interested to read your review. Thanks for being so thorough.

  2. Hello (again), I am now reading this book. It is an excellent read. Once you start, you can’t put it down. It’s very well researched and very thorough. An excellent book. I feel that the parents didn’t provide Sef with a warm and fun environment to grow up in. Sef was stressed out. He was failing his studies and all his parents could do was be upset and give him the hard word. His parents didn’t add any fun and laughter to the home environment. Sef was like a caged animal that was continually prodded with a stick. Soon or later, he’s gonna react. How many hugs did his parents give him? How many fun family times were there? That says it all. His old man like a typical asian father…super serious. What goes around comes around. Great book though. I’ll make sure I bring up my kid with heaps of fun times…and I’ll even help my kid with homework!

    • Your comment just infuriates me. It’s hard to believe that people like you exist but I guess there’s a fool born every minute, just look at California!. Sef was/is, by all accounts, a pathological liar and a narsissistic personality. His parents and sister aren’t here to give their accounts of their home life since Sef KILLED them, but I’m supposed to believe Sef’s pitiful tale, why? Because he says so? He had one reason for killing them…money. If life was so unbearable for him he could’ve moved but then I guess he’d be forced to pay his own way instead of living off of daddy, huh? This guy does not deserve sympathy at all. A lot of us grow up in strict homes with parents who are overprotective and who demand our greatest efforts yet we don’t even consider murdering them. He had every privilege and wanted to live like a high roller without doing what was necessary to do so. Why go to college to make something of himself when he could kill his father and inherit what he had worked hard for?! Those who think the way you do are detrimental to our society. His family deserves sympathy, Sef does not. He made the decision to take their lives so that he could profit from it. He’s an animal is is where he belongs. Actually he deserves the death penalty but if the taxpayers of Australia don’t mind paying for his meals and air conditioning then so be it. Thank God for Texas. We actually serve justice to those who commit heinous crimes…whether the poor little killer’s mommy hugged him enough, we couldn’t care less.

      • I can see where Alan is coming from…. however I don’t think he worded it very well. My outlook on it is: who you are and what you become depends largely on the conditions of your upbringing. Parents who emotionally alienate their children run the risk of their children growing up to become detached, void of empathy and even psychopathic. Sure, I’m probably speculating, but if Sef hadn’t grown up being constantly criticised for his actions, he may not have ended up being so fixated on this fantasy life of money, power and status that he was so desperate to fulfill.

        I think with most crimes, especially heinous ones, the general public fixate themselves on the end result, the actual crime, punishment for the perpetrator, “hope he rots in hell” etc….but you must consider how everything leading up to the crime played a role too….I must stress that people who grow up in happy and healthy households generally DO NOT tend to do these sorts of things.

        Perhaps Sef had psychopathic tendencies that were exacerbated by his home situation, perhaps his parents chose to overlook the telltale signs that he was not a (mentally) sound individual and instead chose to punish him harshly, which made everything worse….I grew up in a similar kind of household, and trust me, it causes A LOT of resentment. I’m not saying it’s his parents fault, but rather, they didn’t know any better….people need to consider the immense impact that certain types of upbringing can hold, and rather than antagonise their child, more effort should be made to understand the child as an individual.

      • Sefton Gonzales

        “Thank God for Texas” is the most moronic thing I have read on the internet in a long time. You want us to drop to our knees and give thanks that some poxy state bumps off criminals? I think most of the world wouldn’t care if Texas (and California, for that matter) were completely expunged from existence. Get off your high horse, and get back to Massachusetts, pinko.

    • You fucking dead shit cunt I’m sure you will get what’s coming to you

  3. Wowsers!! i didnt read the book but i did see this story on youtube…..when i first heard sef in the 911 call,It sounded really frightning…as I continued listening to what he was saying instead of how he was saying it,I felt slightly different.He said someone shot my family.how could he know that?Also when he started singing I felt the hair really stand up on my arms!!!!! Who does that??? He never even broke into any type of crying…..wow…..it makes me really really sick because you never know!!!!!! This could happen to anyone.I have been reading and watching these types of documentaries since 7 grade and i still get the creeps……

  4. I have just finished this book (Maybe im a bit behind) indeed the book was very in-debth which for me made it long reading. It was like one big long news paper article. But im unsure if I would recommend it. well done on the book review. A book about true murder that for me was a page turning & easy read is “Milat” (Belanglo the next chapter) by Roger Maynard.

  5. Just seen story on Discovery ID :Behind the Mansion Halls today. I believe it was not primarily greed . Greed came after the murder/death. Sef seemed to have grown in a stiff and strict autocratic family atmosphere that provided well financially but not affection and fun… and understanding. Im sure the parents loved the kids but quite selfishly. The kids’ academic standing was their utmost priority because this reflects their own success in parenting. Seth who obviously did not shine physically, might have claimed false social status (musician, model, lawyer) to make up for it. He lived in fantasy world. Long term resentment, desperation and rage drove him to hurt his sister(who he feels betrayed him) then his parents. With his family all gone he realized then that he now possessed whatever his parents left materially and financially. That came as a bonus. He was narcissistic and a sociopath. He had very low self esteem deep inside. Tragic ending

  6. Elinor Dashwood

    NEWS FLASH: You’re not allowed to murder your family even if they expect you to do your schoolwork and they aren’t any fun. It’s insulting to normal hardworking people who don’t stab their strict parents to death to make excuses for this little brat. He was a liar and a layabout who wanted his parents’ money but didn’t want their rules. Boo hoo.

  7. I don’t see anywhere in this article where is says the name of the book! Keep looking and nothing, am I missing something?? Because I would LOVE to read it.

    • Oh wow. I feel dumb. It’s the title of the article 😡 haha Nevermind then. Great review though 🙂

      • ^ Moron.

        It seems as if ALAN is making excuses for triple murder with his “What goes around comes around” comment. Insensitive prick.

      • To Dude….yes, Alan is an illogical, irrational thinker. He’s a bleeding heart yet I have no doubt he’d be the the last in line to throw out welcoming arms should someone like Sef decide to move in next door. Maybe he’d like to become pen pals or donate to his candy bar fund in prison. Lol. It costs the bleeding heart nothing to ignore the facts of the crime or the sociopathic nature of the killer…talk is cheap and maybe he’ll even score “tolerance” and “sympathy” points with his fellow non-thinkers…but it costs our society a great deal when we attempt to justify the actions of the depraved.

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