Raleigh, N.C. — A woman who police say was gunned down last week by her husband had been "emerging from darkness" in the weeks prior to her death and had been looking forward to starting a new life with her 6-year-old son, according to those who knew her.
Agata Flipska Vellotti, 43, of Krakow, Poland, died Aug. 30 after her husband, Mario Vellotti, allegedly shot her in the parking lot of Meridian at Wakefield Apartments in north Raleigh.
According to court documents, the two were involved in a custody dispute, and Agata Vellotti had successfully sought a domestic violence protective order against him in recent months.
Agata Vellotti married her husband in 2005 and moved to the United States with him in 2007.
But she had moved out from their home, friends say, and had been working to support herself, partly by selling handmade clothing and crafts at a Chapel Hill cooperative.
"She was optimistic and full of hope," said Paula Maddocks, an emergency room nurse at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, who co-chairs the cooperative, Womancraft Handcrafted Gifts.
Maddocks knew Agata Vellotti as a gifted artist who knitted and made handmade jewelry.
"The knitting was just perfect," Maddocks said. "The color selection was just beautiful."
Maddocks recently received a memorial letter written by a translator who came to know Agata Vellotti in recent months through the law firm representing her in the custody battle.
The translator, Alexandra Lisowska, paints a dark life in which Agata Vellotti felt "invisible" and isolated, with "no church, no friends, no driver's license; not even a key to her home."
"Her world was (her son) Francesco, her crafts, her bedroom, her small neighborhood," according to the letter.
By July, Agata Vellotti had been able to get an apartment and had enrolled her son in a nearby school. She had just returned from walking him there on Thursday when she was shot.
"The Agata who had been so hidden from us for five years was humble, painfully shy," according to the letter. "In the last weeks of her life, she was almost joyful, perhaps for the first time in years. She was optimistic and full of hope."
Maddocks said the letter puts into context her first meeting with Agata Vellotti several weeks ago.
"She seemed very tense, almost that frightened-rabbit look," Maddocks said.
According to the letter, the couple's son is in protective custody, and Agata Vellotti's family hopes to bring him to Poland to live as soon as possible.
Wake Family Law Group, the firm that represented Agata Vellotti, is trying to raise money to make that happen. Donations can be made to Francesco's Fund, c/o Wake Family Law Group, 4350 Lassiter at North Hills Ave., Raleigh, N.C. 27609.
Meanwhile, Mario Vellotti, 64, is being held without bond in the Wake County jail.