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Mom of triplets killed while trying to break up family fight

Monica Montoya is seen in an undated photo obtained by CBS Denver station KCNC-TV.

WESTMINSTER, Colo. -- Neighbors of a 43-year-old Colorado mother are in shock several days after her death, CBS Denver station KCNC-TV reports.

Monica Montoya was the mother of triplets who one neighbor described as "super friendly and happy."

Police say Montoya died at midday on Saturday while trying to break up a fight between her mother and stepfather.

After receiving a frantic phone call, Montoya raced to her mother's home in Commerce City. A confrontation ensued. Her stepfather, 61-year-old Luis Lara, opened fire, killing Montoya and himself.

Montoya's mother also suffered injuries but was treated and released from the hospital.

Lara had a previous case of domestic violence on his record from 2007.

"It's a broken family, and you hope that everything comes together for them," John Dwyer told KCNC-TV.

Montoya's children were all 9 years old.

"The three kids were always outside playing. We saw them outside all the time," Dwyer said.

Cathy Germann said Montoya was an engineer and the perfect wife and neighbor.

"Monica was a great person. She always was friendly and kind. Kind of shy and reserved, but always friendly and kind. May she rest in peace," Germann said.

On Wednesday night, Commerce City police held a community meeting at the Nativity Lutheran Church to discuss the murder and domestic violence in general.

Resident Adrianne Smith said she appreciated their message that help is out there and that in this case the danger is over.

"I think it made me feel better," Smith said. "Just the fact they were offering up as much information as they could and they wanted us to know that this isn't anything to be concerned about right now."

And as the sun went down on a blustery day in Adams County, neighbors remembered a kind woman who leaves behind three children and a grieving husband.

"God bless them all," one neighbor said.

A donation page has been set up to fund the triplets' college education at youcaring.com. As of Friday morning the website has raised more than $35,000.