SUNNYVALE -- As authorities on Tuesday identified a woman suspected of being killed by her husband who police later shot in a standoff, court records show the couple was going through an acrimonious divorce and she feared for her safety.
Marlene Nehez, 55, was found dead inside her San Pedro Avenue home Thursday morning after her husband, 68-year-old Michael Nehez, was shot and killed after reportedly charging a SWAT team with a knife. Officials said Tuesday that Marlene Nehez died from stab wounds to her chest that punctured her heart, and there was evidence that she had been strangled by hands or some kind of ligature.
Before the deadly confrontation, police say Nehez called emergency dispatchers from the home to report that he had killed someone inside, triggering the police response.
A day earlier, the couple had attended a hearing for their ongoing divorce proceedings, and court filings involving the pair were peppered with accusations of physical abuse from one side and paranoia from the other.
Marlene Nehez had a protective order from her husband at the time of her death, but it still allowed them to see each other at her discretion. The two agreed to couples counseling in January.
The divorce filings, which were recorded in November, came after Michael Nehez pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor following his arrest in September for purportedly hitting his wife in the back so hard she needed to go to the hospital. Medical staff called police. The plea spared him from a felony assault charge.
In a corresponding police report, Marlene Nehez told authorities that her husband was physically abusive and controlled her movements by taking away her car keys and passport. When Sunnyvale investigators talked to Michael Nehez, he described his wife as "volatile" and "extremely paranoid."
Marlene Nehez sought multiple restraining orders against her husband after the September incident. Sunnyvale police said it was the last of three known police visits to their home for domestic disturbances that included verbal arguments in 2005 and 2008 and the 1997 battery arrest of Marlene Nehez involving an alleged attack on her husband. The pair were actually divorced at the time of her arrest. After marrying in 1993, they split within a year, but remarried in 1998, court records show.
Marlene Nehez said she expressed concerns for her safety during the prior incidents but got unsympathetic responses until the September incident, according to the police report.
Capt. Dave Pitts said none of the police calls to the Nehez residence telegraphed the tragedy that unfolded Thursday morning with Michael Nehez's self-incriminating phone call.
"There was no way to predict that. Nothing stood out," Pitts said.
Pitts pointed out that homicides that stem out of domestic violence conflicts are rare, which is backed by statistical data. But he and advocates for battered women also stress that for many victims, a restraining order backed by police enforcement can be an effective deterrent from further harm.
"Anybody who is a victim of domestic violence needs to report it to authorities to help send the message that's not tolerated," he said.
Staff writer Eric Kurhi contributed to this report.