Victims of Montecito mudslides include couples, retirees, children

Laura J. Nelson and Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Weather News

The Montgomery family took an international trip together every year and had recently returned from Brazil. They had also visited Sri Lanka and Morocco.


Peerawat, a 6-year-old boy with big brown eyes and a toothy grin, was known to his family as Pasta. One family friend remembered that he adored trains.

The home belonging to the family of Thai immigrants on East Valley Road was destroyed by mud, boulders, debris and rushing water, Mike Caldwell, who managed Peerawat's father at Toyota of Santa Barbara, said on a GoFundMe page. "Literally nothing is left."

Peerawat's father, Pinit Sutthithepa, and his 2-year-old sister, Lydia, are still missing. Taylor, Sutthithepa's 79-year-old stepfather, was killed. Peerawat's mother and grandmother were working when the mudslide hit and are safe, Caldwell said.

In a photo posted on social media in November, the boy has his arm wrapped around his younger sister as they smile and pose on the beach. In another, they are cuddled together in their father's arms.

Anneliese Place, 50, worked with Sutthithepa at the Toyota dealership. He often talked about his family and his beautiful wife, she said.

"That was always the phrase he used: my beautiful wife, my beautiful wife," Place said. Sometimes, his wife would join Sutthithepa at work, bringing their two children. Peerawat would run around Place's desk and giggle, she said.


As a girl in Los Angeles, Riskin dreamed of ballet. She landed a role dancing with American Ballet Theatre in New York in the 1970s, but an injury cut her career short.

She turned her sights to real estate, selling high-end homes on L.A.'s Westside before moving to Montecito.

During nearly three decades in Montecito, Riskin, 61, brokered more than $2 billion in real estate deals for high-profile clients, her co-workers said. Her colleagues called her "the first lady of luxury real estate."

"I love it here so much," she often told her clients, according to a video produced by her company.

Riskin is survived by her husband, Ken Grand, children Robert and Julia, and a grandson.


Gower, who went by Josie, was born in Santa Barbara and had lived in Montecito for more than 20 years. She was a familiar sight, zipping around in her red Mazda Miata convertible, and knew almost everyone in town -- especially the other longtime residents who had embraced the area's laid-back lifestyle, said her son-in-law Alastair Haigh.

While the Thomas fire burned in the hills near her home, Gower and her boyfriend sat at an Italian restaurant and watched the flames, sharing a pizza with the firefighters.

"She was like the life of the party," Haigh said. "Very funny, very charismatic, just radiated energy."

Gower's father had worked as a gardener at the Lotusland Botanical Garden, he said, and had purchased several small houses decades ago. Gower continued to work as a landlady after her father's death. Her tenants were used to seeing her show up with supplies from Home Depot, ready to fix anything around the house.

"She was a very hands-on, independent woman," Haigh said.


Gower is survived by two children and two grandchildren.


Rohter was a retired real estate broker who founded St. Augustine Academy, a Catholic school in Ventura, in 1994. He lived in Montecito with his wife, Theresa.

Rohter, 84, supported education programs and anti-abortion causes, said Michael Van Hecke, the St. Augustine headmaster and a longtime friend.

Van Hecke said he would miss Rohter's "infectious love of the faith and of life, and for all things true, good and beautiful."


Cantin, 49, was vice president of sales for NDS Surgical Imaging, a company that develops and sells operating room technology.

He also served as the scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 33 in Santa Barbara. After leading his troop on a January hike and camping trip in the hills above Montecito, he wrote in an online post, "The splendor of our backcountry is right out the back door."

His daughter Lauren, 14, was pulled from the wreckage of the family home early Wednesday. The family's teenage son Jack is still missing, relatives confirmed.

"I'm so worried," Cantin's mother, Kathleen, said by phone, her voice breaking.


Jonathan, 10, was a fourth-grade student at Cleveland Elementary School in Santa Barbara.

He loved sports and played on the school's flag football, soccer and basketball teams, said Angelique Barajas, 33, who used to work as an aide at his after-school program.

"He was a really sweet kid," Barajas said. "He was always willing to help, and was a friend to everyone."

His aunt Marilyn Ramos, 27, and his cousin Kailly Benitez, 3, were also killed.

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