AUSTIN, TX (People Magazine) – A Texas mother of 3 was shot and killed in her car – as her three terrified children watched in horror. The perpetrator was her estranged common-law husband, who was stalking her since reentering the U.S. illegally after being previously deported for sexually assaulting a child, say authorities.
On Friday at about 5:33 a.m., police rushed to a Valero gas station in East Austin, responding to a 911 call about shots fired, Austin Police Department Sgt. Tracy Gerrish said at a press conference.
Witnesses told police that Veneranda Martinez-Gutierrez, 36, was in the parking lot when Florencio Felix Barron, 43, ran up to the car where she was sitting with her three children, ages 10 through 13, said Gerrish.
“He said something to her, fired some shots, then went to the front of the car and shot himself,” said Gerrish.
Her children – one in the front seat and two in the back – were screaming and pleading with him not to fire the gun, local stations KVUE and KXAN report.
One of his daughters said, “’Daddy, why are you doing this?’ in Spanish,” the family’s next-door neighbor and longtime friend Itza Garcia told local station KVUE.
“She tried telling him, ‘Papi, don’t do this,’ but he wouldn’t listen,” Garcia told KXAN. “They tried defending their mom, and it got to the point where she just collapsed on her daughter’s lap.”
Garcia told KVUE that Martinez-Gutierrez “died in her daughter’s hand. Her daughter has little marks where she squeezed her hand, telling her goodbye.”
Authorities believe Martinez-Gutierrez died protecting her children.
She “tried to shield them” from Barron, Gerrish said.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.
Martinez-Gutierrez died of multiple gunshot wounds at the scene. Barron died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, says Gerrish. They were both pronounced dead at 5:45 a.m.
As a single mom, Martinez-Gutierrez did everything she could to earn money for her children, Garcia told KXAN. “She was the mother that would try to find every little side job to not leave her kids alone,” she said.
Barron had been deported to Mexico after he was convicted in 2016 of inappropriately touching a 10-year old girl at Allison Elementary School in 2016, KXAN reports.
“He obviously reentered the country illegally,” Gerrish said.
After returning, Barron began harassing Martinez-Gutierrez, stalking her in person and online, Garcia told KXAN.
Barron made the last few months of Martinez-Gutierrez’s life a living hell, causing her to fear for her safety, said Garcia.
Garcia says she and her family tried to help Martinez-Gutierrez protect herself against Barron.
“So many times we filed police reports, trying to let them know there was proof that she was getting stalked, getting accused,” she told KXAN.
Their neighbor, Garcia, started a GoFundMe to help pay for Martinez-Gutierrez’s funeral expenses and Christmas presents for the children.