John Patrick Snowling’s wife, Marie, once called him “very, very controlling.”
One of Marie Snowling’s closest friends remembered him as a “crazy husband.”
At various times, John Snowling was a veteran cop reaching out to the homeless, a union boss accused of dirty tricks and a private investigator. On Wednesday night, prosecutors say, Snowling, 59, became a killer in a melee that left three victims dead and six others injured, including his estranged wife. Marie Snowling was shot once in the lower jaw and was recuperating from her injuries Thursday at UCI Medical Center.
John Snowling himself was fatally shot in a gun battle with Orange County Sheriff’s deputies outside the well-known biker bar and family restaurant Cook’s Corner in Trabuco Canyon, during $8 Spaghetti Night.
Court records show the Snowlings separated in November 2020 after nearly 22 years of marriage. She filed for divorce in December 2022. The couple have two adult children.
Tristan teGroen, John Snowling’s attorney in the divorce, said there were no signs of acrimony in the paperwork: no requests for a restraining order, no allegations of domestic abuse, no filing for alimony. Both sides seemed calm and measured, teGroen said.
For related news, see: Cook’s Corner mass shooter, a ‘crazy’ ex-cop, reportedly was targeting wife
“It’s a total shock. … There was nothing on the radar that indicated there could be violence,” teGroen said. “There was no rush to get money from my client. Everything was worked out … to keep the conflict down. There was no conflict.”
A day after the shooting, teGroen said he was reeling from the mass of phone calls he was receiving about his client.
“Here I have a retired officer, he was articulate, composed, a good memory. I certainly received no complaints from the other attorney.”
TeGroen said that after separating, John Snowling lived in Heath, Ohio, while Marie lived in Orange County. No one seemed to be using their house in Camarillo, he said.
Kenneth H.J. Henjum, Marie Snowling’s divorce attorney, declined to talk about the case.
“The Snowling family is in shock at the events from last night and are requesting their privacy,” Henjum said.
Marie Snowling talked about her troubled marriage over cigarettes and drinks about a month ago with acquaintance C. Cahill at a Mission Viejo bar.
“She said he was very, very controlling and she finally got the strength to leave him and she wasn’t sure what to do,” Cahill of Mission Viejo remembered Thursday. “She said her kids were very supportive.”
William Mosby, who considered Marie a daughter, said in an interview at the hospital that John Snowling was not doing well with the estrangement. Mosby called him “a crazy husband.”
In the aftermath of the mass shooting at one of Orange County’s most historic businesses, questions remained over who was John Snowling and what spurred the attack.
State records show Snowling most recently worked as a private investigator, on his own and with Norman A. Traub and Associates in Thousand Oaks. Brock Avery, who took over the firm in 2018 and served as assistant police chief in Ventura, said Snowling handled one case for the company. Traub and Associates specializes in workplace investigations and pre-employment background checks.
Cook’s Corner mass shooting gunman entered with two legal guns, went to get two more
In a matter of minutes, a rocking night at Cook’s Corner is shattered
California biker bar mass shooter, a ‘crazy’ ex-cop, reportedly was targeting wife
Cook’s Corner adds to Orange County’s history of mass shootings, attacks
Father ‘extremely relieved’ to find daughter transported alive to hospital after mass shooting at California biker bar
“I am shocked and it’s tragic. My heart goes out to everyone involved,” said Avery, who would not comment further.
As a private investigator, Snowling had a firearms permit that records show expired in 2017. It wasn’t immediately clear if he had a local permit. At the time of the killings, Snowling was armed with three handguns and a shotgun, which he used to engage deputies.
Snowling started his law enforcement career in 1982, working as a reserve officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. He was hired by the Ventura Police Department in November 1986 and retired as a sergeant in February 2014.
While at the department, Snowling served as president of the police union and was accused by some critics of political dirty tricks in a 2009 phone survey targeting a city councilman who championed pension reform, according to the Ventura County Star.
Snowling also was active in Ventura’s “restorative policing” program, reaching out to chronic vagrants and the homeless in the city’s downtown area, trying to find them shelter, according to a December 2011 article in the VC Reporter. He also went to California State University, Northridge, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1997, according to his resume.
On the morning after the shooting, Orange County detectives were serving a search warrant at Snowling’s house in Camarillo, looking for answers to the shooting spree.
“It’s a huge mystery that has to be explained,” said teGroen.