It was just after midnight on October 21 when Talay Aragon called the cops on her husband, James Aragon, for making "suicidal threats," according to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
Talay had "returned home" with her husband that night when he locked himself in their garage and "continued making these threats," a JCSO incident report notes. "It was believed that James had a gun and was threatening to shoot himself with it.”
Talay and James, 54, lived at a house in the 4300 block of South Holland Way in Littleton with three daughters — two under the age of eighteen and one who's nineteen — who were all home at the time of the incident. "Once the family was removed, they were spoken to, and it was determined that there was no crime," says Deputy Brittney Calcagno in the report. "Last week, James had threatened to kill himself with a gun and that had not happened tonight." The family also informed deputies before leaving that he had "passed out in the garage and did not appear to have a gun."
But on Monday, November 27, James followed through with his threats — taking his life inside the family home after beating and shooting Talay to death, according to JCSO Public Information Officer Karlyn Tilley.
"Her injuries were mostly to her upper body region," Tilley tells Westword. "Head, upper body and face."
James, who has an extensive criminal history — including multiple "domestic violence-related" arrests and incidents — had barricaded himself inside the family's home and started shooting at Talay, prompting one of their children to call the police.
"One of the daughters called 911 to report that their dad was shooting at their mom," Tilley says. "When our first deputy arrived on scene, he got out of his vehicle and started approaching the girls, who were safe outside. Shots were then fired from inside the home, out toward their direction, and one of those shots grazed the leg of our officer and one hit the leg of one of the daughters. So it then became an active shooter situation, and immediately we had to call in the SWAT team, and they came out and formulated a plan."
According to Tilley, authorities tried using the girls to negotiate the release of their mom, who was still inside with James when police arrived. "They tried to reach out to the father with the help of the daughters, but ultimately they didn't get anywhere with that, and so they ended up having to break some windows to force entry into the home to try to get a layout of where everybody was inside and what was happening," she says. "After a while, they were able to confirm that [James] was deceased. And so at that point, they were able to go in...and that's when they were able to find [Talay], who was also deceased."
According to Tilley, the daughter who'd been hit in the leg with a bullet was transported to a local hospital. All three daughters are with relatives now.
"They have quite a bit of family in the area," Tilley says, "so they have a good support system."
According to police records, James spent some time in jail "for about a year," Tilley says, and had "just finished probation on charges that he was found guilty for in regards to a case from 2018" when he committed the murder-suicide.
"It involved some other juveniles that he attacked," Tilley tells Westword. "He tried to run them over with a car."
While details on what prompted James to commit that attack are not clear, Tilley confirms that he was convicted in 2019 for the incident.
"The other calls that we have [at the Aragon residence] that we know of — and we might not know all of them — but the calls that we know of were for a variety of things, with multiple instances of domestic violence-related incidents," she says. "We've responded to calls related to him that involved him at that house since the late ’90s. It has always involved family members. Two older siblings were not present during any of this that now live on their own."
After responding to the October call, Calcagno says another deputy told her that "James is usually uncooperative with law enforcement, and we have had issues with him in the past." Authorities set up a perimeter around the home, just as they did on November 27, and successfully removed the family from the residence — Talay included.
While some of the Aragons told cops they "felt safe staying home" and were "returned to the house," according to the incident report, at least one of them "wanted to leave and was allowed to grab a few things before leaving."
Although law enforcement authorities responded to that October incident and other calls to the Aragon household, they were unable to prevent this week's tragedy.
"With every time we were called to the house, and every report made, there were probably many more that went unreported," Tilley notes. "And this is really as tragic of an outcome as it can get when we're talking about domestic violence cases. We don't want this to happen to anybody, and we want to make sure that people know they can always call us and they should report it, and we can find ways to get them out of those terrible situations and get them the support they need to leave those relationships."
Colorado has been a hotbed for domestic violence killings in recent years, with the number of DV fatalities (DVFs) reaching all-time highs in 2021 and 2022, according to the Office of the Attorney General.
"While it is difficult to determine whether the increased number of DVFs is due to an increase in violence or because we are better at identifying deaths that occurred within the context of domestic violence, every DVF is one too many," says Colorado AG Phil Weiser in the state's 2023 report. "The victims were parents, siblings, law enforcement officers, children, and bystanders and all were cherished members of their communities."
Just last week, two DVFs were reported in Denver and Northglenn, according to CBS News. The one in Denver saw three men die in a murder-suicide during a family dispute; the Northglenn death was the result of another murder-suicide involving a couple.
In Jefferson County, repeat domestic violence offender Wayne Lotz was convicted and sentenced in May to life in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Michele Scott, whom he had terrorized for years, according to cops.
Between 2020 and 2022, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office received a total of twenty calls to Scott's residence for a "variety of incidents,” most of which involved Lotz and resulted in his being arrested several times.
"We don't want to see this happen to anybody else," Tilley says. "We want to make sure that people know there are resources available out there and they should seek them out, because this — like many others — has a pattern. You know, it starts one way and then it increasingly gets worse and worse. And when it ends like this, it's just a really awful way to remind us all how dangerous domestic violence can be."
Resources and support for anyone affected by domestic violence or intimate partner violence can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY (people who are deaf or hard of hearing). Anyone who is unable to speak safely can log on to thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.