Less than a year ago, Sarah Hawley and her boyfriend, Travis Geddes, stopped in Nevada during their move from the San Francisco Bay area to Salt Lake City. Hawley, a doctor fresh out of medical school, was about to begin her residency at the University of Utah.
Geddes' dad, Rick, said he has a picture from that day. There’s Hawley, “smiling widely," and Geddes in the driver’s seat of their rental truck, flashing his father a thumbs-up.
Nothing in that moment, Rick Geddes said, or any he’d witnessed before, seemed to foreshadow the tragedy that would occur here. The kids, as he called them, were off on a new chapter in their lives.
“Good gosh. How can it end like this?" he said. “I just don’t know.”
Salt Lake City police found 27-year-old Hawley and Travis Geddes dead at their Sugar House home Jan. 27. They say Geddes, 30, shot Hawley before killing himself. A neighbor reported yelling coming from the home just before. In the days since, both families have been forced to grapple with not only losing a daughter and a son, but also with how the two died.
The U.'s School of Medicine has asked for those able to observe a moment of silence for Hawley at noon Monday. A candlelight vigil is planned at 7 p.m. Monday at the University Guest House, and a later memorial service is being planned.
Hawley’s parents, David and Lynn Hawley, said their daughter was a “strong, talented and compassionate physician, daughter, sister and friend." She loved her new life in Utah and the colleagues she met at the U., they said in a short statement earlier this week.
“Sarah selected the University of Utah Family Medicine residency program because of its emphasis on patient care, including rural practice, and support for her interests in women’s health, pediatric care, and wilderness medicine," the family told The Salt Lake Tribune in a longer written statement Friday.
“She loved it for its close-knit community and the opportunities for hiking, backpacking, skiing, and whitewater rafting," it said. "The outpouring of support that this group has shown our family has reinforced our view that this was a perfect match for Sarah.”
A fund to support an annual lectureship at the U. focusing on women’s health, pediatric care and wilderness medicine is collecting donations in her memory. The U. also suggested donations to Planned Parenthood and the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.
Friends, classmates and professors at the University of California-San Francisco remembered Hawley as easygoing, a “relationship person” who instantly connected with people — and her patients, especially.
The family’s statement said a friend of Sarah’s had described her best, quoting the friend as saying, "Sarah was unfailingly kind, fun, hilarious, brilliant, and one of the most supportive friends anyone could ever have. She had the strongest work ethic of anyone I’ve seen and she was so driven to help people. She never met a challenge she couldn’t overcome, and she made all the people around her feel unstoppable and bold.”
David Miclean, a family friend who the Hawleys named as a spokesman, said in his own comments, “Sarah was one of those unique people that had all the smarts, perseverance and drive to succeed at whatever she set her mind to, but also the gifts of compassion and empathy to help other people in need."
Hawley was close with her family, he added. "All of which makes the loss of her precious life the more difficult to bear for those who knew and loved her.”
Those who knew her were baffled by the news that Hawley had been shot and killed by her boyfriend. Her family was as well, saying in the statement: “We cannot comprehend the events that led to her death.”
They said there was no indication of trouble in the relationship or of what led to this “senseless tragedy.”
Rick Geddes can’t understand it either.
He said Hawley’s death was the real tragedy that Sunday, first and foremost. Rick Geddes said he and his wife Cindy are horrified by what their son did, how he robbed Hawley of the chance to reach her full potential.
The Geddes' are sad for their son, too, and are wondering how the man they knew, a “wonderful guy” who seemed so devoted and in love with Hawley, could have the capacity for such violence.
His son had no history of mental illness, Rick Geddes said, and all he can fathom is that his son snapped; that the murder and his subsequent suicide was a “spontaneous act of psychosis rage or something.”
He’d never heard the couple was struggling. He said he has photos throughout his phone of the two seemingly happy: at Thanksgiving, at her medical school graduation, at a family reunion, at Christmas.
But he acknowledges he and his wife may not know the full story.
“In fairness, there may be people out there who can tell you something entirely different. You know, maybe her friends,” he said.
The two had met in the Bay Area, set up by friends about four years ago. Hawley didn’t want a boyfriend initially because she was in medical school, Rick Geddes said, but a relationship blossomed.
While Hawley focused on schooling, Rick Geddes said his son had worked for a tool distribution company. Travis Geddes did the same work in Utah, the father said, but didn’t love it.
Salt Lake City police officials have released few details about how the couple died, saying any new information would not be released until autopsies and toxicology reports were completed. No details about what sort of gun Geddes used — or how he got it — have been made public.
Rick Geddes said his son was an avid outdoorsman who liked to target shoot.
Salt Lake City police have said Hawley never called them asking for help. U. spokesman Chris Nelson has said the same is true for campus police and Hawley’s residency supervisors.
But Jenn Oxborrow, director of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, said research shows random outbursts of domestic violence almost never happen. “People do not just snap,” she said.
Oxborrow said that even in relationships where there aren’t glaring red flags, some kind of abuse — such as power or control issues — typically becomes evident after a tragedy.
Sometimes the warning signs can be a partner having sole control of finances, or an otherwise loving relationship where there isn’t trust — where one partner is always looking through the other’s phone, for example, or where a partner isolates the other.
Studies have also shown that when a gun is present in a home and there is any sort of history of domestic violence, a woman is about five times more likely to die by that firearm, Oxborrow said.
A history of suicidal thoughts is also a contributor in intimate partner homicide risk, she said.
While Travis Geddes had no history of mental illness, he had recently spoken with his mother about suicide, saying he couldn’t understand why a person would ever take their own life, his father said.
On Jan. 27, Travis Geddes texted his mom around 5 p.m. She had sent him a photo and he apparently responded positively, the father said. Nothing seemed out of place, he said.
But later that Sunday evening, Travis Geddes would shoot Hawley before killing himself.
“That he took his own life, and that before he did that, he took Sarah’s life. He took away the Hawleys' future with their beautiful daughter," Rick Geddes said. "All that will haunt me until the day I die.”
Victims of domestic violence can find help by calling the Utah Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-897-LINK.