DENVER -- In less than two years, more than 40 people have lost their lives in domestic violence murders in Colorado.
Reports indicate at least 43 children lost parents in the string of killings.
And in at least nine of those incidents (at least seven in 2016 alone) the suspected murderer also took his own life.
Denver7 Investigates obtained police records and read through press reports in several of those incidents to look for common threads and red flags leading to murder, suicide, and devastation.
January 6, 2016 – Littleton
Victim: Christa Benton
Suspect: David Fallon
Murder weapon: Gun
History: Police called five prior times to apartment, no arrests for domestic violence
Christa Benton’s teenage son called 911 around 2 a.m. asking for an ambulance for his mother, who he said was injured in a fight with her boyfriend, David Fallon.
A Denver7 investigation showed police officers spent less than 30 minutes in the apartment and left without arresting Fallon. Benton got a ride to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with a neck injury linked to a domestic assault.
When Benton arrived home from picking up pain medication for her injury, police say Fallon shot her then shot himself. She survived long enough to call 911 for help but died at the hospital a short time later.
The couple’s 14-year-old son, Jonathan, is being raised by his grandmother. He told Denver7 he misses both of his parents every day.
“She was just really smart and outgoing. Really nice. Super nice. She always was there for you. Like, you have a bad day at school … You could go to her and talk to her about it,” Jonathan Fallon said of his mother.
“My dad used to be a really good person. He used to always take care of his parents. He always used to take care of me. He'd always be like the person you went to if you needed something, just like my mom was. He used to be a really great guy, a great dad. I think just some bad things happened to him,” Jonathan said.
February 27, 2016 – Commerce City
Victim: Monica Montoya
Suspect: Luis Lara
Murder weapon: Gun
History: At least 2 prior calls to address, no arrests
A woman told police her daughter, Monica Montoya, arrived at the Commerce City home she shared with her husband, Luis Lara, shortly after her husband punched her several times during an argument.
The mother told police she heard a gunshot after Montoya arrived and found her daughter grasping at her chest. She saw Lara pointing a gun and said, “What did you do?” Police said Lara shot his stepdaughter then turned the gun on himself.
Neighbors told officers the couple split and reunited several times in the years and months leading up to the murder-suicide. Neighbors said Lara packed many of his belongings and loaded them into a U-Haul about a month before the incident, telling neighbors he planned to move to Texas. He described his wife’s daughters to neighbors as “troublesome.”
Police said they investigated two prior incidents at the apartment but did not make any arrests.
On the morning of April 30, police responded to Jared Haley’s home on a report of a shooting. Police found the divorced couple dead, both with gunshot wounds, with at least three children present in the home.
Inside the bedroom where the couple died, a police report shows officers found a list of pros and cons about moving back in together.
Relatives told police Jared Haley had discussed suicide, had a bad temper, and had grabbed his gun during a prior argument. Jared Haley reportedly made a comment to a relative that “If I take myself out, I won’t be going alone.” A neighbor told police Jessie Haley was upset with her estranged husband because he had recently gotten a concealed carry permit. Neighbors told police the couple argued often. Court records indicate their divorce case closed about a month before the murder-suicide.
Police records show at least five prior visits to the home. Jared Haley has no Colorado arrest history.
History: At least 3 prior calls to Buena Vista Police
Reports of an armed man opening fire in downtown Denver’s Alliance Center sparked an active shooter scare as employees ran from the building to safety.
Police soon discovered two people with gunshot wounds: Mickey Russell was dead, his estranged wife Cara Russell was gravely wounded.
Cara Russell, the former mayor of the small mountain town of Buena Vista, died the next day. She had recently filed for divorce and moved to Denver to start a new career as the executive director of a nonprofit organization.
Police records show police responded to the couple’s home in Buena Vista twice in previous years for domestic disputes. In each case, both husband and wife told police the other had been abusive. In one case, police arrested Cara Russell after her husband accused her of trying to stab him with a pitchfork. She said she did it in self-defense. Mickey Russell was never arrested.
Public records show strong warning signs about Mickey Russell’s well-being in the weeks leading up to the murder-suicide. A police report says Lake County law enforcement “almost had to deploy the SWAT team” because of Russell’s suicidal threats in May. A police report says he was hospitalized at least twice for threatening suicide. In one incident 16 days before the murder-suicide, the Buena Vista police report says Mickey Russell threatened to punch a police officer in hopes the officer would shoot and kill him. That call led to a 72-hour mental health hold. Buena Vista police also made a report with the FAA and banned Russell, a pilot, from using the local airport out of concern over his suicidal behavior.
Police said after the murder-suicide they did not know where and when Mickey Russell got the gun used to murder his wife.
The Denver police investigation of the murder-suicide is still ongoing.
July 31, 2016 -- Denver
Denver police responded to two separate murder-suicides in one day.
Officers said they found responded to an address on South Harlan Street on a report of a suicide. Inside, police found Sheryl Fierro and Jose Fierro-Renteria shot to death. The medical examiner ruled Sheryl Fierro’s death a homicide and Fierro-Renteria’s death a suicide.
The same day, police discovered 26-year old Santy Orozco-Uribe murdered at a home on South Knox Court. Police believe Jose Ibarra-Corral killed her before killing himself. Neighbors on the scene told Denver7 two children lived in the home with the couple.
Little has been released publicly about these cases but Denver police did say both stemmed from domestic violence.
The police investigations into both murder-suicides are still ongoing.