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Police: Florida mom forced to watch estranged husband kill their sons

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A South Florida man strangled his two young sons with a rope at his estranged wife’s house and then used a gun to shoot one of the boys several times before he shot himself to death, authorities said Saturday afternoon.

Police say Isidro Zavala, 45, early Saturday went to the Boynton Beach home of his wife with the intention of killing her and their children, Eduardo Zavala, 12, and Mario Zavala, 11.

At the crime scene, detectives found a blue bag with a second firearm, extra ammunition, duct tape, cutting shears and a note addressed to Zavala's oldest son, who was not at the residence during the killings, police said.  

Isidro Zavala carried out his plan, but with an exception: He spared his wife, Victoria Flores Zavala, 36, so that she could suffer, police said.

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“What Mrs. Zavala had to go through -- watch her children killed before her -- is probably the most horrific thing you could ever imagine, at least for me,” said Boynton Beach Police Chief G. Matthew Immler, saying that he himself is a parent.

The motive for the killing "is just speculation at this point," Immler said.

Victoria Flores Zavala contacted police, who arrived at her house in the 400 block of Southwest Eighth Avenue about 1:50 a.m. Saturday.

Officers found one child dead in a back screened patio area. A second child was found dead in the kitchen dining room area. Officers found Isidro Zavala’s body in the kitchen, police said.

Victoria Zavala said that her husband killed their children, police said. She said she and her husband had been separated and that he no longer lived in the house.

She told detectives that she was watching TV when she heard commotion in the house, went to check on her children and saw Isidro Zavala choking one of his sons, police said.

Then he killed them. Mario was the boy who was shot repeatedly, police said. The mother had tried to stop her spouse.

“She tried fighting him off and begged him to kill her and not the children,” Boynton Beach police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater said in a press release. “He told her she was going to stay alive and suffer the loss of them.”

Detectives obtained a warrant to search the house, as well as a house in the 1100 block of Southeast Third Street, where Isidro Zavala had been living, police said.

The Zavalas have a 19-year-old son who does not live with his family and was not there when the killings occurred, police said. The note found at the crime scene addressed to him said something to the effect that "he was a good son," police said.

Detectives have called the state Department of Children and Families to investigate. “It should be noted that there is no history of reports of domestic violence or abuse noted at the house,” Slater said.

The Zavala couple married in 1993, records show. In 1999, the pair signed a $73,700 mortgage on the home where the killings occurred, Palm Beach County records show.

In October last year, Victoria Flores Zavala filed for divorce from her husband in Palm Beach County, a case that records showed was still listed as pending.

Immler called Saturday's case "an unusually brutal type of murder," but said such murder-suicide cases unfortunately have been known to happen. 

"And certainly I’ve seen it over the years of being a police officer, that there are mentally disturbed people out there who commit these types against their own family members, against their own loved ones," he said. 

The police chief turned his attention to the surviving Zavalas.

"Hopefully, as time passes, perhaps their wounds will heal. I doubt it," he said. "You know, I don’t believe you could ever recover from something like this.

"Hopefully, the surviving Zavalas can get the help they need and somehow go on with life."