A man was charged with fatally shooting his wife and 15-year-old stepdaughter in their south Minneapolis home last week after the wife threatened to leave and take their son, authorities said.
The Hennepin County medical examiner is expected to release the victims' identities and official cause of death this week.
Gonzalo Galvan, 50, was charged Monday with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder after surrendering to police Friday evening at his home in the 2200 block of 10th Avenue S., authorities said.
A neighbor who knew the victims said the older woman was Eugenia (Gina) Tallman, and the teen was Victoria Alvarez.
After the shooting, Galvan called police and later told them that he had killed his wife and thrown the murder weapon into the garbage, according to a criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court. The couple's 7-year-old son, who police say witnessed the shootings, was found unharmed at the scene and taken into protective custody.
Neighbors in Ventura Village, an ethnically diverse enclave just south of downtown, described the children as energetic, often seen playing in the front yard of the family's two-story frame house. Several residents described Galvan, a handyman, as cordial and down-to-earth. He often was seen working around the family's house, they said.
Galvan has been charged with domestic assault at least three times in the past, but in each case the charges were dismissed, according to Hennepin County court records.
Liz Schreiber, a neighbor whose daughter grew up with Victoria Alvarez, said she was "a really sweet kid" who "spent a lot of time over here when she was younger, I think because her family life was difficult. Schreiber also described her as "studious."
Police were called to the address shortly after 5 p.m. by Galvan, who reportedly told the 911 dispatcher that his wife was dead, the complaint says. He later told police that he had killed her and his stepdaughter and "that the gun was inside the house in a garbage can," according to the Hennepin County attorney's office.
Earlier in the day, Galvan had confronted his wife after finding a several backpacks filled with money, accusing her of threatening to "leave him and take his son away from him," the complaint said.
Homicide detectives noted at the scene that Galvan's wife had multiple gunshot wounds to her head, while her daughter had been shot in the body and head, at least once from close range. Both victims were found in the same room.
Galvan is being held on $2 million bond and is scheduled to make his initial appearance in district court Tuesday.
Fighting domestic violence
Cmdr. Bruce Folkens, head of the police department's Special Crimes Investigation Division, says that in recent years Minneapolis police have taken an unconventional approach in domestic violence cases.
With the help of a $124,000 federal grant, officers are being trained to recognize signs of domestic abuse when responding to calls and to encourage victims to fill out "supplementary forms" intended to make prosecution easier. The department is partnering with domestic violence advocates as well as the city and county attorney's offices to curb domestic violence, Folkens said.
Folkens said that, to his knowledge, Friday's killings were the first domestic-related homicides in the city this year.
Statewide, there have been 24 such slayings this year, says Safia Khan, a program manager for the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, which tracks domestic-related violence.
"What was incredibly sad is that we know that leaving is the most dangerous time for someone who's being abused," said Khan, adding that research suggests that nonbiological children living in abusive households are also particularly vulnerable.
Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau, who recently was reappointed to a second three-year term as the city's top cop, made the rounds Sunday night around the Third Precinct, which covers parts of south Minneapolis, to reassure shaken residents. Police increased area patrols over the weekend, while insisting the killings were isolated.
"Even though it's domestic," Harteau told the Star Tribune, "people can get scared" and may not be aware of information that has been reported.
Minneapolis has recorded 34 homicides this year, which eclipses the total number of killings in 2014.
Staff writers Anthony Lonetree and Liz Sawyer contributed to this report