Ra-nae Neal, 50, is still in shock.
On Saturday she learned that her 27-year-old daughter, Carla Whitehead Guerra, had been murdered by her husband, who also shot and killed their three-year-old son and then himself.
"Truly, it's really not going to hit me until the day I go to the funeral," Neal tells Daily RFT. "I probably won't ever get over it."
One of the greatest challenges was explaining to Carla's surviving daughter, eight-year-old Christinia, why she will never see her mother or baby brother again.
See also: - Oscar Guerra: Murder-Suicide Suspect Once Drunkenly Beat Wife With Tire Iron - Murder-Suicide: Dad With History of Violence Shot Wife, 3-Year-Old Son - Weeks Before Killing Wife, Son, Oscar Guerra Nearly Killed A Man
"She is living in a nightmare," Neal says of her granddaughter. "She lost her mother. And there is nobody like her mother."
She continues, "Everything was about her little brother.... They were so close."
Carla Guerra, police say, was shot and killed by Mauricio Oscar Guerra, her 35-year-old husband, inside the south St. Louis home they shared over the weekend. The father killed their baby boy Mauricio, before turning the gun on himself, cops say.
Since we reported on the murder-suicide last week, Daily RFT has received new information from family and police about the shooter's violent history. A month prior, he had allegedly drunkenly beat his wife in the middle of the night with a tire iron in front of their boy. A few weeks after that, he was the suspect in a stabbing that nearly killed a 21-year-old man. In both cases, police officials say they were not able to locate him and arrest him -- and he was not charged.
Now, family and friends of Carla Guerra are trying to piece together what went wrong and are lamenting the fact that she was not able to escape what they describe as an incredibly abusive relationship.
"I don't understand it," Neal says.
Carla's surviving child, Christinia, split her time with her father (from a previous relationship) and her mother -- whom she was supposed to see the day she was killed, according to the family.
"When she had her daughter...she was never happier in her life," Neal says of Carla and Christinia.
But when she was being victimized by her husband -- who she and others say was violent, jealous and controlling -- it was very different.
"When she wasn't with him, she was a joyous person," Neal says. "She was always happy, always smiling."
Carla Guerra, who was born and raised in St. Louis, was working as a manager at a restaurant and also worked part time in real estate, according to her family and friends.
The couple and their son had just moved into a new home before the shooting happened.
"This was a woman that was really starting to bloom," Lisa DiPaolo, a family friend who lives next door to Neal and had known Carla for a decade, tells Daily RFT. "Her life was just starting to begin.... She was really coming into her own.... She loved her kids. She was inseparable from her son."
"She worked hard," says DiPaolo. "I can't believe how hard she was working."
DiPaolo says Guerra would often find time to show houses in between her job at a restaurant and taking care of the family.
"She worked...to take care of her kids," Neal says. "One hundred percent."
"She was a good friend to everyone," another friend of Carla writes in an e-mail to Daily RFT. "She was a sweet person to all her family and friends."
It doesn't seem real, Neal says.
"I know it happened," she says, "but it's not really kicking in."
In the days since the murder, Neal says sometimes she will wake up not believing her daughter is gone. "I say I'm going to call Carla and then I realize I can't do that anymore."
We’re keeping you informed…
...and it’s what we love to do. From local politics and culture to national news that hits close to home, Riverfront Times has been keeping St. Louis informed for years.
It’s never been more important to support local news sources. A free press means accountability and a well-informed public, and we want to keep our unique and independent reporting available for many, many years to come.
If quality journalism is important to you, please consider a donation to Riverfront Times. Every reader contribution is valuable and so appreciated, and goes directly to support our coverage of critical issues and neighborhood culture. Thank you.