SYRACUSE -- It came as a shock to hear that someone who seemed so upbeat and full of energy would be capable of something so horrible, Cat Palmer said.
Palmer referred to the alleged murder-suicide by 32-year-old Kyler Ramsdell-Oliva, who police say may have shot her two daughters, Kenadee Oliva, 13, and Isabella Oliva, 7, to death before turning the gun on herself Tuesday.
"It seems that some of the happiest people are actually masking really big problems," said Palmer, who knew Ramsdell-Oliva through a mutual friend.
Ramsdell-Oliva was the subject of an art project by Palmer, who is a full-time art photographer.
"She was honestly wonderful and had such an energy to her. She was so engaging and had a great artistic sense," she said Friday.
Palmer said it was Ramsdell-Oliva who inspired her to continue making art.
"It was just so upsetting to hear what happened," she said.
The deaths are still under investigation and police do not have an exact motive, but evidence seems to indicate that there have been recent domestic issues with Ramsdell-Oliva's fiance, who was seen moving boxes out of the house earlier that day.
Domestic murder-suicides have been an ongoing trend nationally and in Utah.
On Thursday, a Lindon City police officer was found to have shot family members and himself in their Spanish Fork home.
When 34-year-old Joshua Boren didn't show up for his night shift as a patrol officer, police investigated his home and found Boren dead along with his mother-in-law, Marie King, 55, his wife, Kelly Boren, 32, and his two children, Joshua "Jaden" Boren, 7, and Haley Boren, 5, according to the Associated Press.
Spanish Fork Lt. Matthew Johnson said the couple had been experiencing marital problems in the past few months, but coworkers say Boren appeared upbeat and didn't show signs of distress before the killings.
Similar recent incidents have occurred in Layton and Brigham City, all supposedly involving domestic issues.
Executive Director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition Peg Coleman said that domestic homicides are usually the ones with the most warning signs.
"It never just goes from kiss to bullet," Coleman said.
Common predictive signs include the past use of force, excessive drinking, access to weapons and stated suicidal thoughts, she said.
"Partners need to take those warning signs seriously," she said.
Coleman explained that what makes an already suicidal person decide to take the lives of family members is the classic domestic violence mentality of power and control.
"It's a sense of ownership," she said. "The ultimate control. The authority over your breath."
Coleman said to further prevent these types of tragedies, society needs to change the way it looks at the separation of relationships, especially in Utah where the culture holds marriage in such high esteem and views divorce with disdain.
"The shame involved in ending a relationship can create barriers for people reaching out for help," she said. "We have to make it more acceptable when leaving a relationship is healthy and good for everyone. It is OK to say that this isn't working, it shouldn't be an issue of pride."
People outside the family also need to be more aware and willing to intervene when they see problems, Coleman said.
"We have so much respect for marriages, but people feel intrusive when they pry into other people's problems. They don't like talking about this sort of thing and think that this would never happen to people they know," she said. "It's worth risking a friendship to save a life."
Palmer said she had heard about Ramsdell-Oliva's problems through Facebook and that she had even told her during a photo shoot that she was having a rough time in her personal life.
"I wish I would have reached out to her," Palmer said.
Despite what happened, Palmer said she doesn't look down on Ramsdell-Oliva.
"I don't see her as an awful human being, just someone who must have been going through something awful," she said. "We talked about our kids a lot and it sounded like her kids were her life."
If you or someone you know may be experiencing suicidal thoughts or be a victim of domestic violence, call:
24-Hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline
Statewide Domestic Violence LINKLine
If you or someone else is in immediate danger or has an emergency, call 9-1-1
Contact reporter Andreas Rivera at 801-625-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SE_Andreas.