North Texas parents dead after gunfire at daughter's birthday party

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on January 21, 2013 at 11:43 AM

GRAPEVINE, Texas — An argument at a girl’s 16th birthday party in Grapevine late Saturday night ended with the child's father shooting her mother and then killing himself, according to police.

Kelly Suckla, 43, shot his 44-year-old wife Kristi near the front door of her parents’ home in the 3100 block of Creekview Drive just after 10 p.m. on Saturday.

Kelly Suckla then shot himself in the head a few moments later in the front yard.

Kristi Suckla died about 40 minutes later at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine.

“It’s a quiet neighborhood, a family neighborhood,” said neighbor Ruth Cramer. “We're just speechless.”

Police say Suckla and his wife were estranged, but appeared to be friendly. Friends said Kristi moved into her parents’ Grapevine home about two months ago, but investigators said Kelly was invited to his daughter’s celebration.

“The family members were aware he was going to be there,” said Sgt. Robert Eberling with the Grapevine Police Department. “So I think it pretty much took everybody by surprise.”

Police said they’re unsure what sparked the argument. Family members — including the couple’s teenage daughter and 21-year-old son — were nearby, inside the house, when the gunfire erupted, but they did not witness the shooting.

Jeff Barr has lived next door to the Sucklas' home in Euless for more than 10 years. Just hours before the shooting, he chatted with Kelly Suckla about the party.

“He said they were just going to do a birthday thing for their daughter, and that was about it,” Barr said. He occasionally visited with the Sucklas inside their home, and said they never gave any indication of problems with their marriage.

“They seemed normal — never thought anything was going wrong,” Barr said. “Never gave me any reason to believe otherwise.”

The number of domestic violence murders in North Texas has spiked recently. In Dallas alone, they more than doubled last year to 26, up from 10 the year before.

“It just seems like it’s gotten more extreme,” said Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place, a Dallas shelter for battered women. She said not only are the number of domestic abuse cases rising, but so is the viciousness.

“In the past, what we would see is pushing, shoving, bruises... but not the use of knives and guns,” she said. “It’s extreme violence.”

Flink worries the sluggish economy may be behind the spike in domestic abuse cases. “The majority of the victims have batterers who are unemployed,” she said.

The violence even prompted Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings last week to urge the police department to step up efforts to catch known domestic violence abusers.

“We’ve got to dial it up to the next level,” he said during a Monday news conference at City Hall.

Dallas officers are now prioritizing cases involving domestic abuse, after the department launched a special task force of 100 officers last month to serve arrest warrants.

Yet officers point out domestic violence crimes can be very difficult to predict or explain. That’s why victims’ advocates are pushing not only for stepped up enforcement, but also for women to feel more comfortable in seeking help.

“There really is no hurdle we can’t help a woman overcome,” said Flink, the shelter director. “If it’s bad enough for you to be afraid, it’s bad enough for you to come seek services.”

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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