They were scheduled to be in D.C. Superior Court Friday morning to work out the final details of a fiercely contested divorce.
But Lola Gulomova and Jason Rieff never made it.
Shortly before the 10 a.m. hearing was to begin, Rieff’s lawyer got an urgent message from her client, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an active police investigation. Something was wrong at the couple’s house near American University in Northwest Washington.
The lawyer, Jenny Brody, said she called 911, and police, fearing a mental health emergency, broke down the front door to the redbrick home. They were met by the 51-year-old Rieff holding a handgun, according to a police report. Police said he retreated and shot himself in the head.
In another room, police said, they found 45-year-old Gulomova dead from several gunshot wounds. Police said they believe Rieff killed her before he shot himself. He died at a hospital.
Gulomova’s death was the fifth domestic-related homicide in the District this year, about 7 percent of the total number of killings thus far, a percentage that has held steady over the past few years.
Both Gulomova and Rieff were career Foreign Service officers, and they frequently traveled together in joint postings overseas. A friend said the two met at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in the District. The couple married in 2000 and had two daughters, who police said were not home during the shootings.
Their older daughter had been due to be promoted from the fifth grade Friday evening at a ceremony at Janney Elementary School in Tenleytown. The principal postponed the event, noting in a letter to parents that “one of our Janney families has been greatly impacted by a recent tragedy.”
News of Gulomova’s death spread quickly, shocking former colleagues who kept in touch on social media and those at the Commerce Department, where she worked on trade policy in the Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. Rieff worked at the State Department.
“She was very ambitious, and she was always smiling,” said the friend, Katherine Jacobs, who also was in the Foreign Service and met Gulomova and Rieff in Moscow in 2007.
Jacobs and Gulomova were part of a group of women who started families while juggling demanding jobs that sometimes required moving about every two years.
“She was committed to her work,” said Jacobs, who now lives in Leesburg, Va., and runs a consulting company for nonprofit organizations. “She did a beautiful job balancing being a mom and doing an extraordinary service to her country.”
From interviews with two friends and court documents, it appears that the couple’s marital problems began in 2015, after they returned from their last joint overseas assignment. Eventually, Gulomova filed for divorce.
Court records show that Rieff became angry when he learned that Gulomova had accepted a four-year posting to Belgrade, set to start in summer 2020, and that she planned to take their two young daughters.
A judge in March granted Gulomova a default divorce after Rieff repeatedly missed hearings and gave her custody of the children. But the judge had set another hearing for Friday to hear from Rieff’s newly hired lawyer who had contested the decision, saying that her client had not received adequate notice.
A man in Chicago, who identified himself as Rieff’s stepfather, declined to comment. Gulomova’s lawyer did not respond to messages, and Gulomova’s relatives could not be reached.
Gulomova was born in Tajikistan, where she once was an expert folk dancer. Friends said her family is scattered all over the world, and a sister lived or had lived in New York City.
A biography provided by the Commerce Department says she worked for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, helping victims of Hurricane Katrina. She later joined NASA and was sent to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to work on space issues and support the International Space Station. She also worked in Taiwan and, in 2010, she helped coordinate a visit by President Barack Obama to India.
Heather Turnbow, 47, of the District met Gulomova 18 years ago at the Silk Road Dance Company, shortly after Gulomova had married Rieff.
“She was brilliant,” said Turnbow, who last saw her friend a week ago when the two met for dinner and drinks and talked over her troubled marriage and her struggle to end it. “She had a really great love for life.”
Turnbow called Gulomova “lively, witty, adventurous, smart and very worldly.” She loved her daughters, Turnbow said, “and she would have been the perfect role model for them.”
Alice Crites contributed to this report.