The words “murder-suicide” and “survivor” don’t seem possible next to each other ... unless you’re Natalya Perrin.
The 49-year-old is still alive after her husband Richard shot her in the head, murdered their 17-year old daughter Danika and took his own life.
The injury left Natalya blind.
“The miracle of it? I didn’t die,” she said.
Police also consider it a miracle.
Natalya was walking around her house injured and blind for about 36 hours after the shooting. Police didn’t know what happened in the home for most of that time, and unaware of her own injuries, Natalya at first refused police help.
“Police called, they said, ‘Ms. Perrin, we think you’re in danger,’ I said ‘no, I’m not,’” she said. “[I told them] I’m feeling good, everything is ok. And I hung up.”
"Everything was great"
Natalya was a mail-order bride from Russia 20 years ago. She’s proud of it. She’s from a city near Moscow and moved to the U.S. to marry Richard Perrin.
She said life was good.
“Everything was great,” she said. “My daughter, oh gosh, she was a beautiful girl. Danika was her name. She was an A student, life was promising, she was going to college, she wanted to be a pharmacist, it would be a bright future in front of her.”
Natalya said the family didn’t struggle with money, although her husband worried about it.
“I was telling him, Rick, ‘we don’t have any money trouble, why are you always thinking about money?’” she said. “He was good with saving money, he was good paying bills, all our bills were up to date.”
Natalya’s life as she knew it unraveled in November 2014.
She said her 61-year-old husband was depressed. He took medication for a short time, but stopped, telling Natalya he didn’t need it anymore.
“He threw everything in the trash, he said, ‘I can deal with it,’” Natalya said. “Evidently, he could not.”
On Nov. 13, 2014 the Evans Police Department received a wellness check call from Richard’s work. He hadn’t shown up. They said he also recently used the employee assistance program and claimed he was depressed.
Police went to the home on Marina Street, but no one answered.
Some additional calls revealed Danika hadn’t shown up for school. Police called Natalya. She said she was home.
“She kept telling officer [Don] Morgan that Danika was at school, Richard was out and she had a really bad migraine and couldn’t see, didn’t feel well, she wanted to go to bed,” Evans Police Department Investigations Sgt. Dan Ranous said. “I can’t tell you how many times she hung up on Officer Morgan.”
Eventually officers got Natalya to come out. She looked like she’d been beaten, not shot.
“Her eyes were both bloody and swollen and she looked like she’d been punched in the face, like a boxer at the end of a big fight,” Ranous said. “We didn’t find out she’d actually been shot until she’d been transported up to the hospital. They did a CT scan.”
Because of what police found inside the home, SWAT was called out and eventually the officers found the bodies of father and daughter inside.
“It just broke my heart,” Ranous said. “Why somebody would do this to his family and to his little girl..”
Ranous said there were signs of trouble in the Perrin home.
“The red flags that were all there that just never got put together,” Ranous said. “I can’t help but think this could’ve been prevented. Stuff that Danika had said to friends and teachers that wasn’t reported. The use of the employee assistance program at his hospital. He was obsessed with money, always worried he didn’t have enough money and was very, very controlling of his family.”
Ranous said there is one story that sticks with him still. A couple of weeks before the shooting, Danika called her paternal grandfather because she was upset. She was cold in her house in November, Ranous said and Richard wouldn’t let the family turn the thermostat above 60 degrees.
“Natalya is probably the strongest woman I’ve ever met in my life and that includes her level of loyalty,” Ranous said. “She just does not understand, but she doesn’t want to talk about everything we learned and everything that was going on.”
"I'm better now ... but I'm still not strong enough"
Natalya said she wasn’t ready to find out what happened inside the home in November 2014. It’s taken her a long time just to be able to say her daughter’s name out loud.
“In this life, I’m not going to see her, it’s difficult to accept it, of course, but you’re learning [to accept it],” she said, crying.
And while she said she remembered what happened inside the house, she was shocked to learn from 9NEWS she was alone for 36 hours.
“I’m afraid to even think what happened because I don’t think I can handle it yet,” Natalya said. “Maybe in another two to three years, I would be ready to find out. It’s beyond my strength right now, I’m better now, I’m better. But I’m still not strong enough.”
Natalya said at first she was angry about what happened.
“I came to understand that he was sick,” she said about her husband. “He was very sick, because a normal person in a normal mind, normal condition wouldn’t do such a thing. It still hurts, it still hurts.”
After the tragedy, after losing her eyesight, Natalya had to learn how to live again.
Before the shooting, Natalya was an avid Zumba fitness participant. She came back to her classes with the help of friends and instructors -- and by her sheer will to live.
“One day I was just sitting at home, I was like, ‘So what, are you going to sit in the house? Tomorrow’s Thursday, tomorrow we’re going to have a Zumba class, are you going to be sitting here or are you going to go to the gym?’ she said. “I just said, ‘You know, I gotta go. So what, even if I have a cane, I don’t look as sharp anymore, I gotta do it. I gotta go and live my life.”
Natalya says she gets lost in the music. It’s the only place she doesn’t think about what happened.
“When that music starts playing, oh my gosh, music just takes [sic] you away from this world, just moves you, you forget everything,” she said.
Watching Natalya dance Zumba at her Work Out West gym in Greeley will make anyone want to stomp their feet. There is so much rhythm, heart and soul in Natalya’s dancing.
“When I’m on the dance floor, I just dance and feel the music and I don’t think about almost anything, I just dance,” she said. “Just music, dance and that’s it.”
Amy Ortiz was Natalya’s instructor before the tragedy. She guides Natalya through the moves, holding her waist, tapping her hips, helping Natalya feel the moves, since she can’t see them.
“Her message is so inspiring to all of us,” Ortiz said. “We always tell her and thank her for her courage, her support, her love on the dance floor. Just as a woman, she has such great strength.”
“My example maybe hopefully give other people hope, give other people kind of boost,” Natalya said. “You can do it, get out of your house, don’t sit in the corner and cry, get out and do something with your life. Maybe that kind of message, if some other disabled people will get that message by looking at me, that would be great, if my example would help somebody.”