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Longtime friend says Syracuse mother in murder-suicide battled depression

PRICE — When Pegi Butler heard that the woman she loved as a daughter was suspected of killing herself and her two girls, her heart broke.

"I just keep saying to myself, 'Something terrible happened,'" Butler said. "It was something that happened instantly, something happened that overwhelmed her or just took her breath away to the point that she just felt like she didn't have any other way to go. And I don't know what that could have been."

Police say Kyler Ramsdell-Oliva, 32, shot her two daughters, Kenadee Oliva, 13, and Isabella Oliva, 7, before killing herself in their Syracuse home Tuesday.

The 32-year-old mother had just broken up with her fiancé, Butler said Thursday as she reminisced sadly about the small family that had spent so much time in her Price home.

Butler met Ramsdell-Oliva when she was 18 years old and came to help as a home health aide when Butler's daughter had a stroke. They grew close, confided in one another, even after Ramsdell-Oliva changed professions five years later.

"She was around the age of some of my children, so I was kind of more like a mom," Butler said. "She would talk to me about things, cry about different things that were going on in her life. … It was really comfortable. She became just like part of the family."

Ramsdell-Oliva brought her daughters to the house regularly. Butler recalls Kenadee taking her first steps, and she described Isabella as a sweet and talented little girl.

But through the years, Butler worried about the young woman she said was unique, innocent and trusted the wrong people.

"She would get caught up in things and then not know how to get herself out of certain situations with guys and things like that," Butler said. "She just had a side of her that seemed like she was hurt. She would get hurt easily. But on the other side she was bubbly and happy."

Over the past three years, Butler was hopeful Ramsdell-Oliva was conquering the depression she had fought through her youth, agreeing to participate in counseling and getting her life running smoothly. Part of that positive change, Butler said, was her fiancé.

"She was madly in love," said Butler, who received text messages and pictures when the couple got engaged at Disneyland.

But when Ramsdell-Oliva talked to her on Sunday, something was wrong. Ramsdell-Oliva had told her fiancé to leave their home but confessed to Butler she still loved him deeply.

"She was very philosophical on Sunday. She said a few things … that kind of concerned me," Butler said. "I would say she was heartbroken."

When they finished talking, Butler never suspected Ramsdell-Oliva and the two girls were in danger. The conversation had ended on a positive note.

Since learning about the shooting, Butler hasn't been able to shake the question all of Ramsdell-Oliva's friends have been asking: Why?

"It's just not Kyler," she said. "If she was going to get upset, she would get upset at herself. She would never take it out on her daughters — never ever."

Butler has a theory: Maybe Ramsdell-Oliva was worried about what would happen to her daughters if she left them behind, and perhaps she was afraid custody of the girls would fall to men she feared.

"I don't think there's anyone she really trusted to leave her children with," Butler said. "It wouldn't have been, 'I'm doing this because I'm angry with my children,' or, 'I don't want anyone else to have them,' it would be more of a fear of what would happen to her children if she wasn't here."

Two days after learning of the shooting, Butler says she isn't angry. She's sad.

"I would have done anything to help her out," Butler said. "Or just say, 'Why didn't you call up your family and talk to them? What was going on, honey, that you thought you had to do this alone?'"

Now, Butler says all she can do is tell people what the woman she knew was like, someone who was loving, kind and enthusiastic about life.

"I don't even know what to say to people except that she had a beautiful heart. She had an innocence about her that wasn't like other people," Butler said. "Yeah, she had her ups and downs. She had her dark moments that she had to really fight herself through, but to me this is not her character. Something terrible, terrible had to have happened."


Twitter: McKenzieRomero