MONTE VISTA, Colo -- Three young children were in a Monte Vista home when their mother and her boyfriend were killed by a masked attacker, police said.
The predawn Monday slaying of Sarah Janay Beasley, 29, and John Raymond Salazar, 54, has stunned residents in this town of 4,500 in southern Colorado.
"We haven’t had a murder here in years and to have two in one day, I think everybody's on edge," Monte Vista Police Chief Chief Rick Needham told 7NEWS Thursday. "I mean it's a small town. People know these people. Of course, they're going to be really nervous."
Neighbors reported hearing gunshots about 4:18 a.m. at the couple's home at 530 Lyell St., Needham said.
Responding officers found Salazar's body in the driveway and Beasley's body in the home, Needham said.
Beasley's three sons, ages 2, 4 and 8, ran to a neighbor's house for help, Needham said.
Police are trying to identify a person seen leaving the area, wearing a black ski mask, black jacket, black pants and gloves. The person was about 5 feet, 7 inches tall and overweight. The gender of the individual was not known.
Someone using red spray-paint left two warnings on both sides of the house: "My drugs R not free."
Needham said it's unclear if the killings involved retaliation over drugs or if the killer was trying to throw police off. It's also possible that the attacker mistakenly chose the wrong home, he said.
While it's believed the couple was shot to death, Needham said the cause of death would have to come from Rio Grande County Coroner Rusty Strohmayer. Strohmayer, citing the ongoing investigation, said he would not disclose the cause of death until the autopsy report was completed in about six weeks.
Colorado Bureau of Investigation crime-scene investigators assisted police with processing the scene, which took two days, Needham said.
Sylvia J. Lobato, editor of the Monte Vista Journal, said the couple was well-liked and respected in town.
Friends have created a makeshift memorial outside the family's home.
Salazar was a popular custodian at Bill Metz Elementary School.
"He was loved by the faculty, liked by the kids. A guy that would give the shirt off his back to anybody and shovel snow for old ladies," Lobato said.
Beasley was studying to be a school counselor at Trinidad State Junior College in Alamosa.
"These people do not sound like people who would be involved in drugs," Lobato said.
Beasley's sons have been placed in the care of the Rio Grande County Department of Social Services, Needham said.
"I think Monte Vista is a safe place to live and work and play. It's a tragedy that didn't need to happen," the police chief said.