71°F
weather icon Clear

Leaving too late: domestic violence turns deadly

She was on was on her way out, tired of the jealousy, the anger.

She was ready to move on without him.

But her decision came too late.

In the early morning hours of June 1, Maria Flores and one of her daughters became victims of fatal domestic violence.

Domestic violence can turn deadly at any time. Often, there are no warning signs — just a tragic outcome that leaves too many questions unanswered for the loved ones who have to pick up the pieces.

“Every single time there’s violence and threats … this could be the time,” said Marlene Richter, executive director of the Shade Tree, a shelter for abused women and their children in Las Vegas.

According to a 2012 report by the Violence Policy Center, Nevada ranked first in the nation for domestic violence killings.

It’s a bone-chilling reality for families and friends who have lost someone to domestic violence.

Friend Wendy Nichols was stunned by Flores’ violent death.

Manuel Mata III, Flores’ boyfriend, faces two counts of murder with a deadly weapon and one count of attempted murder. Las Vegas police accuse him of shooting and killing Flores and her 17-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Gomez. Flores’ daughter Sophia Trujillo, 4, was shot and wounded.

“It’s crazy that they dated for three years and then he all of a sudden got jealous,” said Nichols, who now lives in Arkansas but met Flores when they were co-workers at a doctor’s office in Las Vegas.

Mata had become increasingly angry, and dealing with that became too much for Flores. She was planning to leave him but never got the chance, Nichols said.

Police said the shooting happened about 6 a.m. in the couple’s home in the 5500 block of Cotton Street, near Charleston and Nellis boulevards. Mata then turned his shotgun on himself in an apparent suicide attempt, police said.

Both Mata and Sophia were in critical condition at University Medical Center as of Thursday.

To her friends, Flores never seemed like a victim of abuse.

“She never put anything on Facebook, like sad or depressed. She never told friends,” Nichols said. “I don’t think she would have told anyone. She was always very private about her relationships.”

The behavior is all too common among victims in an abusive relationship, Richter said.

“They go to great lengths to cover up what is happening to them,” she said.

The deaths of Flores and her daughter are part of a string of domestic violence incidents that have ended in fatalities this year:

■ On March 5, a 47-year-old woman was shot and killed by her ex-husband in her home after an argument, Henderson police said. The ex-husband was found dead in a car parked in front of the house from self-inflicted gunshot wounds, police said.

■ On Jan. 29, a 54-year-old man shot and killed his two adult stepchildren and his 62-year-old wife at their north valley home before turning the gun on himself, police said.

■ On Jan. 21, a Las Vegas police officer killed his wife and 5-year-old son before setting his Boulder City house on fire and committing suicide.

“Those are really hard for us,” North Las Vegas police Sgt. Tim Bedwell said . “You never forget those scenes when you go to them.”

The Violence Policy Center’s study analyzed data from FBI statistics from 2010 in which one man killed one woman, an indicator of domestic violence. Nevada’s rate of such homicides per 100,000 people was 2.62. South Carolina was second, with a rate of 1.94 per 100,000 people.

“We’ve had more domestic violence homicides, and significantly more murder-suicides in male-female relationships,” Bedwell said, adding that police began to notice the uptick about the same time as the 2008 economic downturn .

The Metropolitan Police Department did not respond to requests for comment and information on domestic violence homicides.

Nevada has ranked first in the nation for domestic violence homicides for the last three years, and for five of the past six years, the study said.

Richter, who has worked with abused women for 20 years, said nearly every case shares a common factor.

“The underlying theme is always control. The abuser is talking over someone else’s decision-making, and they use a series of actions to break their will,” Richter said. “The only voice they hear is from the abuser.”

For the spouses, the abuse is not just something they try to cover up. It is something to which they become accustomed.

“It doesn’t escalate to them,” Richter said. “It’s just another component of their life. It becomes normal to live in that kind of crisis.”

And even when authorities intervene, the victim’s mentality often prevents them from seeking or taking help.

“It’s very difficult for us to influence these (people),” Bedwell said. “Sometimes the victims will protect their abuser” up to the time they are killed.

Richter noted that the longer someone is in an abusive relationship, the more difficult it becomes for them to escape.

“If there isn’t intervention, then they still believe what they were told,” she said. “Even though they left the danger, they’re still at risk until they realize they are a worthwhile human being.”

Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at
clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638.
Follow him on Twitter @clochhead44.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Crime Videos
CCSD police on the arrest of Deamonte Warren - VIDEO
CCSD police arrested Chaparral High School custodian Deamonte Warren on Friday on three counts of a school employee having sex with a student and an additional count of providing alcohol to a minor. (Courtesy CCSD Police)
Woman charged with sex trafficking an 11-year-old girl on the Strip (Michael Quine)
Gigi Mitchell faces seven felony charges including sex trafficking and child abuse for bringing an 11-year-old girl to the Las Vegas Strip to work as a prostitute.
Bel Air Drive Officer Involved Shooting Presser - Video
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly goes over the officer-involved shooting on Bel Air Drive.
Former Las Vegas police officer get 25 life sentences for sexually abusing child
Former Las Vegas Police officer Bret Theil was sentences to 25 consecutive life sentences at the Regional Justice Center Wednesday, May 15, 2019, for sexually abusing a child over a decade. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Man pushed off bus in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Las Vegas police arrested 25-year-old Cadesha Bishop on May 6, after she allegedly pushed Serge Fournier, 74, off of a parked bus near Fremont Street and 13th Street about 4:50 p.m. March 21.(Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
$1 million bail set for mother charged with drowning 2-year-old daughter
The 44-year-old mother who police say drowned her 2-year-old daughter in a bathtub in a northeast Las Vegas apartment on Saturday made her first court appearance on Tuesday, May 14th.
Officer arrested on suspicion of lewdness with a child appears in court
Matthew James Terry, a Las Vegas police officer arrested on suspicion of lewdness with a child, appears in court Monday morning, May 13, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police seek hit-and-run driver
A motorcycle officer pulled over a Mercedes SUV, and after the officer came to a stop, it shifted into reverse, intentionally hitting the officer.
Thedrick Andres becomes Henderson Police Department acting chief
Henderson Police Department Acting Chief Thedrick Andres speaks about his goals in his new position at the Henderson Police headquarters, Monday, April 29, 2019. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2 dead, 1 wounded after east valley neighborhood shooting
One man and one woman are dead and another man wounded after a shooting Thursday afternoon in an east valley neighborhood.
Bail denied for former police detective charged with murder
Bail was denied Tuesday for former Metropolitan Police Department detective, Pamela Rene Bordeaux who is accused of fatally shooting her daughter’s ex-husband during supervised visitation with his child.
Third suspect in death of California doctor appears in court
The third and final suspect in the killing of a California doctor, Jon Kennison, 27, appears in court Friday, April 19, 2019. Kennison, Kelsey Nichole Turner, a former model, and Diana Pena, face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Richard Cleaves of Pahrump arrested in burglary on former Binion property
Updated press release regarding burglary on a former Binion property: Richard Cleaves, 56 of Pahrump, has been arrested on a warrant for burglary, conspiracy to commit grand larceny, and destruction of property. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Judge denies bail for suspect charged in the killing of California doctor
Diana Pena, one of three people charged in the killing of a California doctor, is being held without bail after her fingerprints were found on the car where Dr. Thomas Burchard's body was discovered.
Ex-NFL player and girlfriend held without bail in child’s death
Former professional football player Cierre Wood and his girlfriend, Amy Taylor, face charges of murder and child abuse in the death of Taylor's 5-year-old daughter. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP identifies man who was shot by trooper on Mount Charleston
Nevada Highway Patrol updates the media on the April 2, 2019 officer involved shooting on Mount Charleston. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas court grants '90 Day Fiancé' defendant continuance
"90 Day Fiance" stars Colt Johnson and his mother Debra left the Las Vegas Justice Center Thursday, after the court granted Larissa dos Santos Lima a continuance in her misdemeanor case, in which she is accused of domestic violence against Colt. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Details released on in-custody death
Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank addresses media about details of an in-custody death at Clark County Detention Center on March 31. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Man hurt in shooting with Nevada troopers at Mount Charleston
A man was injured in a shooting involving Nevada Highway Patrol troopers Tuesday afternoon at Mount Charleston on state Route 157 near Echo Trail. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Officer wounds inmate during escape attempt
An officer fired on an inmate who stole a vehicle and tried to flee, ramming several cars and leading officers on a chase until he ran out of gas.
Man fatally shot during a 'beer skip'
A store clerk is being questioned after a man was fatally shot during a robbery at a gas station Friday. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Las Vegas police give details on fatal shooting
Metro homicide Lt. Ray Spencer gives a briefing on a fatal shooting near downtown Las Vegas that occurred on March 27, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas community pays tribute to boy killed by car
The community joined friends and family at Wilbur & Theresa Faiss Park, Wednesday evening, to remember the boy who was struck and killed by a car crossing South Fort Apache Road from Faiss Park, near West Maule Avenue, on Monday. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Person of Interest Found For Downtown Las Vegas Bar - Video
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is seeking help to find a person of interest in a potential homicide case at a bar in downtown Las Vegas.
Metro briefs media on OIS near downtown Las Vegas
Police address media about officer-involved shooting that started on Maryland and Vegas Valley, and concluded downtown, near the Golden Nugget.
Update on OIS at Vegas Valley and Maryland
The incident began at the Steinberg Diagnostic Medical parking lot and ended downtown.
Amy And Spencer Powell Recount Hit And Run
Amy Powell and her son Spencer recount the day Spencer was hit by a truck while riding his bike. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jeremy Burch of Tonopah arrested in Amarillo, TX
Jeremy Burch of Tonopah was arrested in Amarillo, TX on a Nye County warrant for open murder, burglary, obtaining money under false pretense, use of credit card w/o owner consent, and destruction of evidence. (Nye County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)
Metro Presser For OIS 6 (Full)
Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 19, 2019.
Metro Presser For OIS 6
Metro police address the officer involved shooting that took place on March 19, 2019.
Domestic disturbance call ends in suicide
A man died by suicide after police tried negotiating with him outside of his ex-girlfriend’s home on March 13. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
20-year-old armed robbery suspect shot by Las Vegas police
A 20-year-old armed robbery suspect shot by a Las Vegas officer on Saturday night is also accused of burglarizing a Boys & Girls Club minutes before the shooting.
Commercial Robbery On 3000 Block Of North Las Vegas Blvd - VIDEO
On February 19th, 2019, at approximately 10:23 am, a robbery occurred to a business located on the 3000 block of North Las Vegas Boulevard. The pictured suspect entered the business, approached the counter and pointed a firearm at the victim demanding money. The victim complied and the suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of money. No injuries were reported.
DEA Launches New Program To Combat Opioid Epidemic
The Drug Enforcement Administration is launching a new effort in Nevada to combat the opioid epidemic.
THE LATEST