Bliss Boutique owner Cindy Rosier remembered as a dedicated friend and entrepreneur
By Jim Shilander
A sunny Saturday in downtown San Clemente turned to tragedy Oct. 25, leaving many wondering if they missed signs of trouble and mourning the person they lost.
Cynthia Jean Rosier, 64, was working at Bliss Boutique, the store she’d owned for a dozen years when her husband, John Patrick Dillard, 59, walked in to the store carrying a handgun at approximately 2 p.m. An employee at the store ran outside to call police. Inside, Dillard shot and killed Rosier and then himself. No employees or customers were injured.
Orange County Sheriff’s Department SWAT personnel were dispatched because authorities believed there could have been an active shooter, Lt. Jeff Hallock, the department’s public information officer said. Upon entering the clothing boutique, sheriff’s officials discovered the two bodies. Officers also blocked off Avenida Del Mar from both directions, as well as Ola Vista, for several hours during the investigation
Jennifer Posey, Rosier’s divorce attorney, said the couple had only recently begun legal proceedings, but said in the early stages, the split was “amicable.”
“That’s what was so shocking,” Posey said.
Dillard had been receiving consultation from Eleanor Stegmeier, a respected divorce attorney in the area, though he had not retained her yet.
“The case was in its infancy,” Posey said. “It wasn’t ugly. Usually if we have people negotiating at the beginning of the case it’s a good sign that it’s going to be a friendly case. There were offers back and forth and we weren’t that far apart.”
Posey said when she called Stegmeier to tell her the news, they both tried, and failed, to find something they could point to that was troubling in the case that might have led them to believe Dillard would commit murder. There was no history of domestic violence, she said, nor arguing or screaming at their sessions. Dillard had moved out of the couple’s residence, had access to money and his own condominium.
Posey described Cindy, as Rosier preferred to be called, as “sweet, soft-spoken and kind.” She took care of her elderly mother, along with two dogs.
“You always hope you can protect your clients, and you’re always looking for signs,” Posey said. “This one didn’t ring those bells.”
Gunfire Sends People Scrambling
The incident sent officers into the street and weekend downtown shoppers and diners to take cover.
Juan Gomez was working behind the bar at Avila’s El Ranchito, across the intersection of Ola Vista and El Camino Real from the boutique, when he heard a final gunshot. The restaurant’s music had been turned off once patrons realized something was going on, he said.
Once officials arrived they told passersby to move away from the scene and restaurant patrons to move close to the bar and away from windows, Gomez said.
San Clemente resident Jim Kirkwood was traveling down Avenida Del Mar just after the shooting was reported.
“I pulled off of El Camino Real and a (sheriff’s) motorcycle was right behind me. I thought I was getting a ticket,” Kirkwood said. “I saw a ton of people coming out of Bliss pointing police inside.”
Kirkwood pulled into a parking spot and went inside Jack’s Surfboards, across the street from Bliss, where he stayed and witnessed police draw their firearms and go into the shop. He said he was prepared to cover himself in case someone came out of the shop firing.
Anyone with information is asked to call OCSD at 714.647.7000. Anonymous tips can also be submitted at 855.TIP.OCCS or at occrimestoppers.com.
Business Community Remembers a Kind-Hearted Friend
Kathy Graham had worked with Rosier for 12 years at Bliss, since the store opened.
“She was loving, caring,” Graham said. “She’d do anything for anybody She loved her job, she loved everyone on Del Mar, she loved fashion. I can’t say anything bad about her.”
Graham said the couple had been married for five years. She said she never saw anything to indicate violence, though she said Dillard might have taken the decision to get divorced a little harder.
“She never believed he would harm her, but he definitely had his issues,” Graham said. She said she felt terribly for Dillard’s two sons from a previous marriage, who she described as “devastated.”
The long term fate of the business is still up in the air, she said.
Lisa Rodarti of Erba had known Rosier for more than eight years, but the women had grown especially close over the last two years.
“We just got to know each other better and found we had a lot in common,” Rodarti said. “What happened was shocking and completely out of character from what I knew, the experiences I’d had with him. He was a quiet, gentle, soft-spoken kind man. And she never said he was anything other than that.”
Rodarti said Rosier was “extremely thoughtful,” a laid back, kind person who took things in stride, but also a determined entrepreneur, someone committed to making her businesses work. She had actually began Bliss with her first husband, at a location near Albertsons, and then made the move to one of the larger retail spaces on Del Mar. Eventually, she created two more businesses, Johnny D’s, a men’s store initially created with Dillard, and Felicity Boutique, a short walk down Avenida Del Mar from Bliss.
“At that time it was a huge risk to take that size of a space, because the downtown wasn’t really so full of cool shops back then,” Rodarti said. It was something for her to go down there, to take on that kind of rent and take that chance. She really helped downtown reinvent itself.”
Downtown Business Association President Christina Carbonara said the situation was a tragic one, and that Rosier was an important figure in the downtown business community.
“I would definitely like to express our condolences to the family and what a great asset Cindy was to the downtown and how very shocked and sad we are with this. She will be missed greatly,” Carbonara said.
The DBA will be hosting a candlelight prayer vigil Sunday, Nov. 2, at 5:45 p.m. Candles will be distributed to all the downtown businesses. The group is also asking for a moment of silence among the stores in the downtown area Sunday at 6 p.m.. Jeffrey and Stacey Lloyd of SC Wine Company will also be holding a fundraiser for San Clemente domestic violence shelter Laura’s House in Rosier’s honor Nov. 8 and 9. A private memorial service has been scheduled.