By: Steven Henshaw
A man who killed his estranged wife and himself Monday afternoon in her Reading home had been released recently from prison for violating a protection-from-abuse order against her, police said Tuesday.
The evidence so far suggests Segundo Torres-Ortiz, 41, shot Melissa Gonzalez-Torres, 37, in the head in a second-floor bedroom of the home in the 1100 block of Robeson Street about 2:30, said Capt. Cheryl Pentheny of the investigations division.
Torres-Ortiz also shot himself in the head, Pentheny said.
The Berks County coroner’s office Tuesday ruled Gonzalez-Torres’ death as a homicide — the first in Reading this year — and Torres-Ortiz’s as a suicide.
The shooting happened in a home filled with numerous family members, including the children of Torres-Ortiz and Gonzalez-Torres, Pentheny said.
Pentheny believed the couple had at least five children, all of whom were placed in the care of relatives.
Pentheny said no one in the home reported hearing any arguing before the shootings. She said someone in the home called 9-1-1.
Pentheny said Torres-Ortiz had been released from the county prison in late April and did not live in the same house as Gonzalez-Torres.
“There is a history of domestic violence between these individuals,” she said. “The suspect (Torres-Ortiz) has been arrested numerous times for PFA (protection-from-abuse order) violations. The victim had a PFA against him that expired in the middle to end of April. He was last incarcerated for breaking into her home and violating the PFA in January.”
Gonzalez-Torres didn’t try to renew the PFA after it expired, Pentheny said, and it was unclear what their relationship had been like since his release from prison.
“We don’t know what caused the situation to escalate,” Pentheny said. “Whether it was something ongoing or he just snapped and he decided today is the day I’m going to do it.”
Beth Garrigan, chief operating officer of Safe Berks, formerly Berks Women in Crisis, said the protection-from-abuse order is a powerful tool for many people who experience abuse, but as with any law, it’s not perfect.
“It’s tragedies like this that remind us of the work we do here and the importance of working together,” said Garrigan, who will take over as CEO of the nonprofit agency June 1. “In this situation, it did look like all the systems did work together. Unfortunately this is the worst possible outcome in domestic violence.”
She added that Safe Berks works hard on public education to end what she called the stigma that keeps domestic abuse victims silent, protecting the abuser, while teaching those of all ages how to spot the red flags of abuse and controlling behavior in relationships.
It’s the second time a tragedy involving the family has shaken the neighborhood.
On Sept. 25, 2016, Gonzalez-Torres’ 16-year-old son, Christhian Torres, 16, was fatally stabbed while wearing a Halloween mask as he rode his bicycle on Locust Street, about a half-block from his family’s home.
A neighbor confronted the masked teen, saying he was scaring children playing in the block, then popped his tire with a machete, investigators said.
The situation escalated when the teen went home, told his parents and returned to the block with a large group to confront the neighbor, investigators said.
Torres was stabbed in the heart by Avery M. Valentin-Bair during a one-on-one fight with another neighbor who witnesses said jumped in just as calm had been restored.
A Berks County jury convicted Valentin-Bair, 30, in April 018 of third-degree murder and aggravated assault.
Judge Patrick T. Barrett sentenced Valentin-Bair to a total of 22 1/2 to 50 years in state prison.
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By: Steven Henshaw