Family members describe Sunday shooting as a crime of passion

Oct. 5, 2010 at 5:05 a.m.

Family members of a Victoria man accused of killing his estranged wife before turning the gun on himself Sunday described the incident as a crime of passion.

Victoria police think Louis Chavez, 37, shot his wife, Kristi Chavez, 36, once in the chest in her bedroom at Windsor Park Apartments, 3001 Arroyo Drive, around 3 a.m.

He then shot himself with the 12-gauge pistol-grip shotgun and died almost immediately afterward, police said.

Family members said domestic abuse did not play a part in the deaths.

"They both weren't violent people. They were the last people we thought this would happen to. They were very much into church and their children," said Geneva Zambrano, Louis Chavez's sister. "It was a loving family brought down by a crime of passion."

Kristi Chavez, who had recently separated from her husband of 13 years, had moved into the apartment just two weeks before along with her 16-year-old daughter.

The couple was trying to work things out, Zambrano said.

Without going into much detail about the couple's marriage problems, Zambrano said the Chavezes' problems stemmed from a second male who was involved.

Although Victoria Police Chief Bruce Ure said he was aware of a confrontation the husband had with an acquaintance of the victim earlier that day, he said police had never been called out to anything related to the couple here in Victoria.

A search of court records turned up no restraining orders or legal separation or divorce papers related to the couple.

Other than one traffic violation Kristi Chavez had that was later dismissed, Kristi, who worked as an accountant, and Louis, who worked as a maintenance man and mechanic, did not have any other criminal charges in their Victoria County records.

In fact, the Chavezes, who were also local landlords, had won a lawsuit in late August against a former tenant.

The Chavezes were awarded $1,200 in back rent plus court costs.

Molly Villafranca, director of family violence for Mid-Coast family services, said a lack of restraining orders or police reports does not necessarily mean a marriage is without troubles.

In some relationships, Villfranca said there is no prior history of violence, however, something happens once that causes a person to go over the edge.

"The first thing that comes to some men's minds is, 'If I can't have you, then nobody else can,'" said Villafranca. "They commit suicide because they know they are going to be lost and if they do it they don't have to answer to anybody.

Friends and family were in shock after hearing the news.

Vanessa Escalona, the tenant who the Chavezes won the lawsuit against in August, said the couple always appeared to be problem-free.

"As landlords, they were always pretty friendly," said Escalona. "If we had any problems, they were there to help out."

Renee Rivera had only recently met Kristi Chavez once the two became neighbors at Windsor Park Apartments.

Rivera said she last saw Kristi Chavez Saturday evening kissing a man at the bottom of her apartment building's stairwell.

The victim's 16-year-old daughter, who witnessed her mother's shooting, and the couple's young son, who was with relatives at the husband's house in the 1000 block of Melrose Avenue at the time of the shooting, are now with relatives of both sides of the family.

"Everybody was devastated, but both of our families are together now and are trying to work everything out for the children," said Zambrano.

The police department is waiting for official toxicology results to see if any substances played a factor in the killings.

Justice of the Peace Annie Ramos ordered an autopsy.



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