Four days after they were shot to death, an Eagan couple will be remembered today at a prayer gathering. The bodies of Svetlana Hanson, 25, and Charles Hanson, 42, will later be cremated and inurned together in North Dakota.
Their deaths underscore a gruesome trend. Advocates for battered women say murder-suicides take place in Minnesota at a rate well above the national average, and many such crimes are committed by men after their wives or girlfriends leave them.
The Hansons were killed about 10 p.m. Tuesday when Svetlana’s ex-husband, 29-year-old Robin Bhattacharyya, fired a semiautomatic shotgun through the front window of the couple’s Eagan home, according to police. Bhattacharyya then used the gun to kill himself.
Svetlana Hanson’s father, who was visiting the couple from Israel, was in the living room with them but was unharmed. The couple’s three children, ranging in age from 9 months to 12 years, were asleep and not hurt.
“Svetlana was a beautiful person, and she and Charles were very much in love,” said her uncle, Mark Stipakov of Long Lake. “It was just a marriage made in heaven. They had a child together; there were two other kids, and everyone was very, very happy. It was the happiest time of their life.”
Stipakov and his wife, Bella, are caring for the couple’s 9-month-old son until a final determination is made on his placement. Two other children from Charles Hanson’s first marriage are with other relatives.
The Stipakovs have helped
organize a “gathering of friends” from 1 to 3 p.m. today at J.S. Klecatsky and Sons Funeral Home, 1580 Century Point, Eagan. A prayer service will follow.A memorial Mass will be celebrated Tuesday at the Basilica of St. James, 622 S. First Ave. in Jamestown, N.D., where Charles Hanson’s parents and two brothers live, according to the Jamestown Sun. The Hansons will then be inurned together at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Jamestown.
Authorities said they may never know what drove Bhattacharyya to commit the double murder-suicide. He had no known history of violence or criminal record. His marriage to Svetlana Hanson officially ended last year, just as her new one began with an older, wealthier man.
She and Bhattacharyya married in March 2004. She was 18, and he was 23. They separated in July 2008, and she soon moved in with Hanson, a software manager at Starkey Lab in Eden Prairie, to work as his au pair. She married him in 2009, around the time her divorce from Bhattacharyya was finalized by Hennepin County.
Bhattacharyya, who was self-employed, owned a house in Northeast Minneapolis and was working toward a doctorate degree in computer science at the University of Minnesota. His former wife graduated from the U last year with a dual degree in computer science and math, her uncle said.
Her name joins a list of women killed by partners and former partners in Minnesota. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women recorded six murder-suicides involving intimate partners last year — the highest rate in the nation per capita and about twice the national average.
Experts who track domestic abuse, however, say certain details about the Hansons’ murders stand out.
Jeff Edleson, a professor of social work at the U, runs the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse. The public doesn’t always realize the danger women face when they try to leave an abusive partner, he said.
“We sort of assume when a woman moves away from her partner, it stops,” Edleson said. “But actually, soon after she leaves, if it’s against his will, you may see an increase in his violent behavior in an effort to get her to come back and (to) control her behavior. In fact, many murders of battered women occur in the few months after they have separated from their partners.”
However, no record exists of Bhattacharyya committing acts of violence or even making threats. Court records show he did not hire an attorney during the divorce, which was completed without a hearing or legal fanfare. He and Svetlana Hanson went their separate ways without either asking for alimony. They had no ongoing financial ties.
The murders occurred two years after she had moved out of his home.
“What the triggering event is, we may never know,” Edleson said. “It may have been something unrelated to her — difficulties at work or school, or rejection from another female. And in turn, he took it out on her and her new husband. Whatever it was, it’s no excuse for doing what he did.”
Bella Stipakov, Svetlana Hanson’s aunt, called the deaths unfathomable.
“It is a very tragic event,” she said. “They were very much in love. I can’t believe it happened. I just can’t believe it. I’m speechless.”
Frederick Melo can be reached at 651-228-2