Woman shares story of mental illness that led to husband’s deadly shooting spree

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AURORA, Colo. -- It was a story that once again brought fear to the fragile city of Aurora.

Three people died and the gunman held police at bay for four hours before he was shot and killed.

The only person who survived the tragedy: the gunman`s wife who jumped from a second story window.

The community was devastated and the rumors were rampant ranging from the suspect, Sonny Archuleta, being on a drug binge to a family dispute that turned violent.

But all of those stories were speculation from neighbors and friends.

The lone survivor of that tragedy wants people to know what really happened.  Stephanie Archuleta sat down with FOX31 Denver to share her story.

The scene was chaotic on that Saturday morning.

But before that, “My sister was there, my dad was there, her boyfriend was there. Everything was just fine. We ordered pizza that night, there was nothing that led up to this,” says Stephanie Archuleta. “There was no fighting there was no arguing. It was a normal day.“

Right up until she woke up to gunfire.

“I was upstairs sleeping because I had to go to work.  I didn't know anything was going on until I heard the gun shots.”

She thought it was a nightmare.

“'I ran downstairs. My mind still didn't register. I was screaming and crying. I said ‘what happened, what happened?’ I could tell he wasn't there.  It wasn't my husband because my husband is a good man. I looked at him and whatever happened my husband was not there. Whatever happened with his mind it completely broke.”

Stephanie Archuleta barricaded herself in her room and found a way out. She jumped from the second story bedroom window.

“I was just scared, I didn't know what was going to happen. I knew I had to get out of the house and go and get help.”

Stephanie’s sister Stacie Philbrook, her boyfriend Chris Radcliff and their stepfather, Anthony Ticali, were all dead, something she didn't know until police shot her husband and went inside.

Stephanie tried to prevent the shootout. She says she told police the truth about Sonny`s mental state. It was a reality that like many people, he had a hard time admitting. He was bi-polar.

"There is a big stigma. He was embarrassed. He told me all the time that he didn't have an illness, he wasn’t sick, he had a condition."

But Stephanie thought they had the condition under control, never thinking that it would end the way it did.

“No one hates Sonny but they are angry and they have every right to be.  But for me he was my best friend and I’m trying to grieve my husband but also be supportive for my family so it’s hard,” Sonny Archuleta said.

For now, she has set up a website, ssamhideout.org, leading those with any type of mental illness to help.

That’s something Sonny Archuleta never really found.

“I just want this to mean something. If I could change it I would, obviously, but I just want this to mean something.”

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