West Valley City PD identify couple killed in apparent murder-suicide

WEST VALLEY CITY - West Valley City detectives are investigating two shooting deaths as a murder-suicide.

The bodies of Samir Skender, 51, and Mirtheta Skender, 49, were discovered shortly before 5 a.m. Sunday after one of their adult daughters heard gunfire.

“We responded and confirmed there are two adults on the scene and they are deceased,” said Lt. Steve Katz of the West Valley City Police Department.

Kimberly Hernandez is a neighbor, and she and her sister were close friends with the couple’s two daughters.

“They were loveable people,” Hernandez said. “It’s really sad. It’s sad to think that this could happen to anyone you didn’t expect it to happen to them.”

The Skenders owned the European Pizza Deli, a restaurant close to the family’s home. Neighbors say the couple moved to Utah from Bosnia and were about to travel back to Europe. A sign on the deli door said the restaurant would be closed until September 11.

“I was shocked I was like ‘Oh my God’, you know, because they are really nice people,” said neighbor Paula Rodriguez.

Utah has a higher rate of domestic violence for women than the national average, 32.4% vs. 28.8%. The Utah Domestic Violence Coalition reports that 42 percent of all Utah homicides have been related to domestic violence since 2000.

“Domestic violence is a serious public health issue in Utah,” said Jennifer Oxborrow, Utah Domestic Violence Coalition Executive Director. “It’s preventable and we need to know the warning signs and how to find help.”

The Utah Department of Health did research on domestic violence homicides in Utah and found that between 2010 and 2013:

• 88% of perpetrators of DV homicide were male
• A firearm was the weapon in 59% of the cases
• 39% of perpetrators had a criminal domestic violence history
• 22% of these murderers were previously ordered to “treatment” by the court
• In 22% of the cases, children were either involved or witnessed the homicide
• 34% of the perpetrators died by suicide after the homicide
• There was an active protective order in only 2% of the domestic violence homicides perpetrated in Utah between 2010 and 2013

The UDVC has additional information and resources online, here. You can also call 24/7 for confidential support and resources at the following phone numbers:

Utah Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-897-LINK (5465)
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
If you or someone else is in danger, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Oxborrow is urging anyone who suspects trouble at home to call for help.

“We have trained victim advocates that work with a team of programs across the state to provide emergency shelter, confidential counseling, legal advocacy and protective orders," she said. "We can find a safe place for people if they believe they are in danger.”