PHOENIX — Three people are dead after an apparent double murder-suicide at a Phoenix residence overnight.
Officers responded to the area of 19th Avenue and Buckeye Road late Sunday night for reports of a shooting.
When officers arrived at the scene, they found a man who had been shot and killed in front of an apartment. He has since been identified as 38-year-old Eric Sands.
A witness told officers they saw another man force a woman inside an apartment before more shots were fired.
When officers were safely able to enter the home, they found a woman, 29-year-old Danica Aiken, who had been shot and killed. Taffari Celestine, 24, was also found in the home and was dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police say Celestine is believed to be the ex-boyfriend of the Aiken, and Sands was her current boyfriend.
One neighbor told ABC15 that the couple just moved into their new place.
"They were still moving things in, three or four days ago," said the neighbor, who called 911 and asked not to be identified. "I guess they were trying to get a new start somewhere, and I guess they were found."
The neighbor said she woke up to yelling and immediately could tell something was wrong.
"I heard screaming, yelling, 'Please! Someone help me.' Then I heard a gunshot and it sounded way too close, like in my yard."
The grandmother said she felt powerless.
"I stayed on the phone and I just thought, this girl is gone. This girl is dead," she said.
Domestic violence homicides peaked in 2020, and experts say they have not dropped since.
"Now that the pandemic is trending down, we're still seeing this issue of deaths due to domestic violence in the state of Arizona," said Myriah Moon, CEO of New Life Center.
"We do know that when a person is trying to leave a violent situation, that is sometimes the most dangerous time for that person, and [it] could lead to situations like death," Moon continued.
Moon said the current data for 2022 shows Arizona is once again on pace to surpass more than one hundred domestic violence murders.