The Coeur d’Alene woman who shot and killed herself and an apartment manager Wednesday told her ex-husband in the weeks before the shootings that life was becoming too stressful, but her family never thought she was capable of homicide.
“She kept telling me, ‘It’s getting too much for me.’ She kept saying, ‘I’m on the edge; I’m on the edge; I’m on the edge,’ and I didn’t catch it,” Bill Botto said through tears. “She did wrong – she did something very wrong. It’s just the pressure of the world, life – she couldn’t handle it.”
Police say 44-year-old Evelyn Botto, upset about unanswered noise complaints and illegal parking, shot Park Place Apartments manager Bette Fears, 67, three times late Wednesday morning in the complex office before firing a single bullet into her own head. A memorial for Fears, who died at the scene, sits outside the office.
On Friday, Bill Botto sat in the apartment his ex-wife shared with their daughter, Jessica, and cocker spaniel, Sarah, and talked with friends about a woman family members described as fun-loving but plagued by stress and illnesses.
“I think her medications played a role in this,” he said.
“Evie,” as she was known to her friends, suffered “borderline multiple sclerosis,” 20-year-old Jessica Botto said, and walked with a limp. She took daily medication for a stomach condition and used pain pills occasionally. She feared she had skin cancer. The growth and development in Coeur d’Alene bothered her. She dreamed of owning her own home but was stuck in apartment living, having moved several times in the past few years because of excessive noise and unresponsive apartment managers, said Bill Botto.
The Coeur d’Alene Police Department received six calls from Evelyn Botto in the past year complaining about conditions at the apartments on Ramsey Road, said Capt. Ron Clark.
Sheree Shore, a friend of Jessica Botto’s who said she considered Evelyn Botto her own mother as well, received a call from the woman in the minutes after she shot Fears and before she shot herself.
“I’ve never in my life heard her cry so hard,” she said. “She just kept on saying, ‘I love everybody. I’m sorry. It just became too much.’ “
Evelyn Botto told Shore she had entered the office to speak with Fears about ongoing problems and the gun fired as Fears tried to grab it from Botto’s hand.
“She’s like, ‘I accidentally shot her so I just kept shooting,’ ” Shore said. “She’s like, ‘I’ve never shot anyone in my life. I didn’t want to do this. I’m sorry.’ “
Evelyn Botto said she was tired of people laughing at her for the way she walked, tired of the noise and parking problems. She said she was going to kill herself, Shore said.
Shore urged her not to and jumped in her car to drive to the office. Police soon arrived, and she heard the gunshot that killed Evelyn.
Bill Botto said the couple married in the late 1980s in California and moved to Coeur d’Alene shortly afterward. She got sick often, “but they never could find out what was wrong with her,” he said.
“Evie was a wonderful person, but she did have her problems,” Bill Botto said.
The Bottos divorced in the mid-‘90s but remained close friends, he said. They’d spend time together when he was home from his job as a truck driver, playing cards at her apartment, barbecuing, eating at restaurants and sometimes gambling at the Coeur d’Alene Casino. They had one child, Jessica, and Evelyn Botto had a son from a previous relationship.
Jessica Botto said her mother was pursuing legal action against the apartment complex because of noise and parking problems.
“Nothing was happening fast enough I guess,” Jessica said. “She said she was just sick of everyone picking on her. She’d cry so much.”
Police found a suicide note by Evelyn Botto detailing the complaints that indicated she planned to take matters into her own hands. She bought a gun at Black Sheep Sporting Goods on Tuesday, Clark said. But Jessica Botto wasn’t sure whether it’s the gun her mom used on herself and Fears. A picture of a gun on her mom’s cell phone is dated July 8.
She saw her mother the morning of the shootings.
“She seemed OK that morning. She said she was going to run errands, and I didn’t think anything of it,” Jessica Botto said.
Family members said they never thought of Evelyn as violent. Bill Botto said she had a fear of guns that stemmed from a childhood attack and wouldn’t allow him to have a gun in their home.
Tomlinson Black Management Inc., the Spokane company that operates Park Place, has hired the public relations firm the Gallatin Group to handle media inquiries. In a news release, the owners and managers of Park Place said they were “shocked and deeply saddened” by the deaths of Fears and Evelyn Botto.
“Bette was more than just a manager, she cared deeply about every tenant and was a good friend to many,” the statement reads. “She and her husband Lonnie made sure Park Place Apartments was a community for their residents, not just an apartment, and that the complex was maintained in first-class condition.”
Bill and Jessica Botto said they’re both sad and angry.
“I’m still trying to figure out how, why, what happened,” Bill Botto said.
Jessica Botto said she’s also struggling to understand what happened and feels for Fears’ family.
“This is not my mom. She was a great mom. I just don’t know her this way,” Jessica Botto said. “I’m angry with her right now. We talked about everything, and she didn’t talk about it with me.”