Shooting victim's family: Suspect threatened to kill her

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MESA, Ariz. – The family of a woman who was shot and killed by her on-again-off-again boyfriend says her death was no accident.

Sheila Schurz, 20, was killed Friday, and her boyfriend, Bernardo Barraza, has been arrested on a charge of second-degree murder.

Police said Barraza initially told them Schurz killed herself, but later changed his story, claiming he accidentally shot her while they were discussing gun safety.

“They had recently purchased the handgun and he had apparently fallen asleep with it or something like that," said Detective Steve Berry of the Mesa Police Department. "There was some discussion as to the safety of the handgun…during the course of that discussion or whatever the gun discharged and she was struck.”   

The second-degree murder charge indicates that investigators do not believe the shooting was premeditated.

Schurz’ stepfather said Barraza was abusive. He does not believe his stepdaughter’s death was an accident.

“She would flat-out say that ‘One day he’s going to kill me,’” said Tim Lawton, the young woman’s stepfather.

The family feared it was only a matter of time before Barraza, 21, made good on his alleged threats.

“This was an abusive man,” Lawton said. “He has hurt her in the past. He has threatened her in the past.

“I wasn’t in the apartment. I don’t know what actually happened yesterday,” Lawton continued. “Knowing Sheila, the only gun safety involved was, ‘Please get the gun out of my house.’”

Barraza declined 3TV’s request for an interview.

Schurz had a young son from another relationship. Brendan, who turns 1 year old this week, is in her family’s custody.