A 31-year-old man in Florida allegedly stabbed his 26-year-old wife in front of her three young children before slitting his own throat, in what law enforcement authorities are calling a “tragic murder-suicide.”
Oscar Mercado Salazar and Byanca Cruz Tovar were allegedly arguing about disciplining one of the three children, ages 10, five, and two, when Mercado killed Tovar before taking his own life.
Salazar was the stepfather of Tovar’s 10-year-old son and the biological father of the two younger children.
“This is really, really a heartbreaking story,” Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said during a Tuesday press briefing. “It is absolutely sickening on one end, again, when you look you have three little kids involved here, a 10-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, who don’t have their mother anymore — over what?”
According to the sheriff’s office, Volusia County deputies at approximately 6:17 p.m. responded to a 911 call about a reported stabbing at a residence located in the 2700 block of Gramercy Drive. Upon arriving at the scene, first responders entered the home and found an unresponsive adult male and an unresponsive adult female who appeared to be suffering from stab wounds.
The female, later identified as Tovar, was pronounced dead on the scene. The male, later identified as Salazar, was transported to a local hospital with a faint pulse, but ultimately succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead approximately an hour later, Sheriff Chitwood said.
Authorities say the 10-year-old child told investigators that he watched in horror as his stepfather killed his mother. The child reportedly told investigators that his parents were arguing over Salazar’s discipline of their 5-year-old child.
“During the investigation, the 10-year-old son of Byanca Cruz advised detectives that he witnessed Mercado, his stepfather, stab his mother following an argument. The boy indicated Mercado tried to stab him, too, but was unsuccessful,” the press release states. “The boy ran to a neighbor’s house for help. The neighbor responded and found both Cruz and Mercado unresponsive in their home with apparent sharp force injuries.”
According to Sheriff Chitwood, Salazar stabbed Tovar “multiple times” in the “senseless and brutal” attack. He said her injuries showed she was in “a fight for her life” that left her “loaded with defensive wounds.”
The sheriff’s office said that the family had been living at the Gramercy Drive address for approximately five months, during which there were no calls for law enforcement. Investigators learned, however, that neighbors overheard arguments and “a lot of screaming and hollering” from the house multiple times since the family moved in, Chitwood said.
Additionally, investigators learned that Mercado was twice charged in Orlando with aggravated battery on Tovar in 2016. In one of the instances, Tovar was pregnant.
“It’s classic domestic violence,” Sheriff Chitwood said. “That’s the sad part of how these things end. There’s a history there.”
The sheriff also noted that Salazar had come to the U.S. illegally in 2016 and assumed the identity of a Texas man whose truck was stolen several years ago.
Chitwood voiced concern for the wellbeing of the couple’s three children moving forward.
“It’s just a matter of what the little ones saw or heard, and what help they are going to need,” Chitwood said. “When you think about it, what tragedy can you go through other than watching your mother get killed at the hands of your father or stepfather?”
Watch the press conference below:
[Images via Volusia Sheriff’s Office]
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