LAKE WORTH, Fla. (WSVN) — One day after, authorities said, a man shot and killed his girlfriend outside a Lake Worth convenience store before wreaking havoc on Interstate 95, the victim’s family spoke out about their tragic loss and the mental state of the man who allegedly pulled the trigger.
Nicole Novak’s loved ones are still reeling about her violent and untimely death.
Speaking with 7News on the phone, her grandmother, Dorothy Novak, said she remains in disbelief. “I was so shocked. Like, what the heck?” she said. “I guess we’ll never know what exactly happened.”
According to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the 26-year-old Novak was shot in the head outside the My Neighborhood Grocery store, Wednesday morning.
The culprit, investigators said, was her boyfriend, 22-year-old Hugo Silva.
The elder Novak said the couple’s bond was genuine. “He loved her unconditionally,” she said. “What possessed him to do that, I don’t know.”
The couple had a baby back in November, and her grandmother said Novak was happy to be a mother.
Dorothy described her granddaughter as a beautiful girl. “She comes from a really good family, a really good family,” she said. “Everybody loved Nicole.”
Relatives said the couple moved to West Palm Beach from Merritt Island a few weeks ago so Silva could find work.
The younger Novak, who was released from prison in 2016 for burglary and drug possession, was trying to get her life together, her grandmother said.
“They had a rental car. She was looking for a car to buy,” said Dorothy.
Investigators said the couple drove their Nissan Rogue to My Neighborhood Grocery.
According to the store clerk, they went inside, used the ATM and bought cigarettes. “They seemed to be friends,” said the clerk.
The employee added the couple appeared to be normal, but moments after they walked out, she heard a gunshot.
“I saw the lady was lying down in front of the store,” she said.
Authorities said Silva shot his girlfriend in the end, picked up her body and threw her in the back of the Nissan and drove off.
Detectives said Silva ended up driving the wrong way on I-95 and hitting several cars head on near the Lantana Road exit.
Driver Yolanda Oliver said she was on her way to work when she witnessed the multiple collisions. As the Florida Highway Patrol and PBSO responded to the scene, she took out her smartphone and began recording the tense confrontation.
“[The deputies said], ‘Don’t move, don’t move. I’ll shoot you right now,'” said Oliver, “and they just kind of like wait for any kind of movement.”
According to Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, a deputy who feared for his life shot and killed Silva.
Investigators said Novak was not the gunman’s only victim. Earlier this week, they said, Silva shot a man at a West Palm Beach motel and another man at a Boynton Beach home.
The elder Novak said she continues to grapple with Silva’s actions. “He’s got to take all these drugs. He has Crohn’s disease,” she said. “He was only 22. He had all these medications for his Crohn’s disease.”
The grandmother believes the mix of medications may have altered his behavior. “I don’t know, maybe the medicines they had him on twisted his mind or something,” she said. “I really don’t know.”
Novak’s grandmother said that, in recent weeks, Silva had become increasingly ill.
According to court documents, he had become more violent over the past few years.
At one point, Silva’s grandmother filed a restraining order against him because he had threatened her with a knife if she didn’t give him money.
The deputy who fatally shot Silva was later identified as Connor Haugh, a PBSO veteran. He has been placed on administrative leave until an investigation is complete.
The couple’s baby is currently with Silva’s family.
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