SALT LAKE CITY — The family of a woman shot and killed in an apparent murder-suicide at the University of Utah Research Park said Friday that her husband targeted her shortly after finding out she planned to file for divorce.
Police say Katherine Peralta, 23, was shot and killed Thursday by her husband, 25-year-old Richard Peralta, in the parking lot outside ARUP Laboratories where she worked. Richard Peralta then shot himself and died a short time later at University Hospital, campus police reported.
"She had loved her husband and had tried for years to strengthen their marriage through counseling and other means, but they had recently separated," the woman's family said in a prepared statement. "We believe that the dispute arose because she had informed Richard that she would be proceeding with a divorce in January."
Katherine Peralta, who went by Katie, was known as "a kindhearted and gentle person, loved for her genuine and soft-spoken nature," her family said in the statement. She and her husband were the parents of a 15-month-old son.
"Katie was deeply devoted to her young son and was seeking to give him a wonderful future," the statement says. "Katie’s bravery and conviction to provide the best situation for her child was always evident, and she had recently confided to us that she was leaving the marriage to protect herself and her son."
A Facebook post from Richard Peralta on Christmas Day makes a vague reference to a "rough month," though he didn't mention his marriage specifically.
"I love being able to give all these presents to my son and spoil him like a father should," he said in the post. "It has been a rough month for me but spending the day with him and being able to make him smile and laugh has been fantastic."
Multiple buildings were locked down for less than an hour following the shooting. Officers soon discovered the incident was was related to "marital problems," University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy said Thursday.
The short confrontation occurred entirely in the parking lot, where Richard Peralta approached his wife before shooting her multiple times, Brophy said. Some of Katie Peralta's colleagues at ARUP, who were "very, very shaken up," were interviewed by police Thursday night, he said.
"ARUP is grieving the loss of one of our employees; our hearts go out to the families and friends impacted by this tragic event," Edgar Braendle, CEO of ARUP Laboratories, said in a statement. "At this point, we are focused on providing emotional support to our employees and are providing counseling onsite to help people through this difficult time."
Katie Peralta's family mourned her death as a "senseless act of domestic violence."
"We love Katie, we miss Katie, and her loss will be felt for many years to come," they said in their statement. "We greatly appreciate the outpouring of support and prayers from friends, family and the community during this tragic time."
A woman identifying herself as Katie Peralta's grandmother shared her devastation on Facebook, saying "I can't believe she is gone."
"Oy my little Katie Bug, I love you and will miss you," she wrote.
A woman who indicated she is Katie Peralta's aunt also shared her shock in a Facebook post.
"Please God don't let this be real! My baby niece was taken by domestic violence and her little boy left without a mom or dad," the post reads. "My heart hurts and will never be the same without you. I love you Katie bug."
Loved ones set up a GoFundMe donation site asking for help covering the costs of Katie Peralta's funeral and financially providing for her son.
Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting the YWCA, Women in Jeopardy, 801-537-8600; or the Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-897-LINK (5465).