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West High Employee, Husband Die in Apparent Murder-Suicide

West High Employee, Husband Die in Apparent Murder-Suicide

Posted - May 24, 2004 at 4:05 p.m.



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Tonya Papanikolas reportingA West High School employee and her husband are dead today after a murder-suicide in the school's parking lot.

West High Employee, Husband Die in Apparent Murder-Suicide

It happened more than an hour before school started so most students had not arrived yet.

The shooter was 52-year-old Federico Cervantes-Lavalle. He shot himself after firing at his wife, 39-year-old Marisela Lavalle. The two had been married for 23 years, but just recently she had asked him for a divorce

She had worked in the cafeteria at West High School for two or three years, and she'd worked for the district about eight years. Today her husband caught up with her on the way to work.

West High Employee, Husband Die in Apparent Murder-Suicide

Officers say the victim had parked her black Escapade in the employee parking lot and was walking across the street to school when her estranged husband pulled up in a small blue Toyota.

Det. Dwayne Baird, Salt Lake City Police Dept.: "We understand that he got out of the car and confronted her as she was walking across the street. There were some words exchanged. We don't know the extent of that conversation at this point."

That's when the man pulled out a gun, shot his estranged wife, and then turned the gun on himself. The owner of a deli across the street heard the shots.

Veone Voyington, Sbuddies Donut and Deli: "I was sitting in the office and I heard three pops and a pause and another pop, and I assumed it was a gunshot."

West High Employee, Husband Die in Apparent Murder-Suicide

Later in the morning family and friends showed up at the school, including the victim's roommate.

Police say the victim was in the process of getting a divorce and had been living with another woman for about six weeks. Police asked her about the victim's relationship with her husband.

Veone Voyington, Sbuddies Donut and Deli: “According to the roommate, there wasn't any physical abuse. But she said there was some yelling back and forth, that kind of thing. Perhaps some psychological abuse prior to this incident."

As students came to school, police and the district wanted everyone to understand this was not a random act of violence. They say the man came to the school with the intention of shooting his wife and had been looking for her for the last few days.

West High Employee, Husband Die in Apparent Murder-Suicide

Det. Dwayne Baird, Salt Lake City Police Dept.: "He had not been able to talk to her all weekend and he was in the process of trying to find her. He had stopped other people who knew her over the weekend and was unable to make contact with her then."

The principal said some of the cooks went home for the day after hearing the news about their co-worker.

And they tried to keep students informed throughout the day.

The Salt Lake School district assembled a crisis counseling team there, and they made announcements during the morning to reassure students they were safe.

Police say there is no record of domestic violence or prior problems between the two. They leave behind three grown children.

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