LINDON — In the weeks before Katie Peralta's life was taken from her, Carl Calaway noticed something different about his daughter.

Peralta was happier. She was herself again.

"She opened right up. She was a different person," Calaway said. "I mean, she was back to the old Katie."

Calaway said it was clear his 23-year-old daughter was at peace with her recent decision to seek divorce from her husband. What was not apparent, though, was that her unhappy marriage could end instead in a murder-suicide.

Police say the Salt Lake City woman was in the parking lot outside her job at ARUP Laboratories on Dec. 29 when her husband, 25-year-old Richard Peralta, confronted her and shot her multiple times. She died at the scene. Richard Peralta turned the gun on himself and died a short time later at University Hospital.

"It just seemed so senseless," Calaway said in an emotional interview Friday at his home in Lindon.

Calaway's world was turned upside-down. Adding to his despair, he felt completely blind sided in finding out that his son-in-law could be capable of committing the ultimate act of domestic violence, leaving a 15-month-old boy without either of his parents.

"When she made up her mind (about the divorce), boy, she actually told us some things that concerned us, but we never pictured physical abuse," Calaway said.

Calaway viewed Richard Peralta as controlling and distant; Katie Peralta divulged that her husband "put everything in his name," he said, and prioritized time with his friends over with her. But she appeared to have "no fear of" her husband, Calaway said, which made the deadly violence all the more shocking.

"When something is really going on, people really need to pay more attention," Calaway said. "I ask every day if there was something missing."

Calaway also believes that his daughter's death was planned — and, despite no previous detection of abuse, that it was symptomatic of a degrading relationship.

"It wasn't sudden," he said.

Campus police reported on the night of the fatal shooting at University of Utah Research Park that "marital issues" were a suspected motive.

Calaway said he's speaking publicly about his daughter's death not as a way to air grievances with the man who killed her; he wants Richard Peralta's family to have a strong relationship with his now-orphaned grandson, he explained. But he's speaking out in hopes of warning others that signs of domestic violence are not always obvious.

"We did see the control," he said. "I always believed, though, very strongly in staying out of marriage issues. I wonder — Katie did share some things with us six weeks ago, but they still weren't (obvious signs)."

His grandson motivates him to try helping other families to avoid similar tragedies, Calaway said.

"This little boy, every day, he waits for his mom to come home," he said.

Domestic violence and guns

As Calaway thinks up ways to help other families, a state legislator is eyeing a potential gun law as one way to address domestic violence in Utah.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, is the sponsor of House Bill 206, which aims to prohibit gun access to anyone who has been convicted of a domestic violence-related offense. It also applies to anyone who has had a protective order issued against them.

"Individuals who have shown a history of domestic violence ... shouldn't own, possess or purchase a firearm," King said.

More than a quarter of all homicides in Utah in 2016 were related to domestic violence. King believes his bill would aid somewhat in reducing the number of domestic violence murders statewide. The measure underwent its first House Rules Committee hearing Thursday.

King said federal law already prohibits anyone with a domestic violence conviction from owning a firearm, but that it is rarely enforced because state police agencies don't have the resources to focus heavily on federal laws.

"(What) we're doing is making the same violations of federal law, (also) violations of state law. ... (and) bring more resources to bear to enforce existing law," he said.

The representative told the Deseret News that he doesn't believe the measure will become a political lightning rod, adding he's "optimistic" it can pass the Republican-controlled Legislature. Most gun rights advocates are either "neutral" about the bill or "supportive" of it, he said.

"I think they ... don't want individuals using guns in an irresponsible manner," he said of those advocates. "It makes all gun owners look bad to have individuals using guns to injure or kill their family members."

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).

Contributing: Ryan Morgan