Get the latest from TODAY
A Christian born in predominantly Muslim Iran, Benneta Betbadal fled to America at age 18 to escape Islamic extremism.
She initially settled in New York, but later moved to California, where she went to college and met her police officer husband, Arlen Verdehyou.
“She came here to have a better life, a better education and everything else, and unfortunately it was taken away from her,” Verdehyou said.
Betbadal was killed on Wednesday, one of 14 people whose lives were taken during a shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California.
“From day one that I met her and until the last day, she was just an angel," her husband said.
Betbadal graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a chemistry degree and went to work as an inspector for the San Bernardino County Health Department, where she worked for nearly a decade.
“She loved her job, her community, and her country,” according to a Go Fund Me page set up to help her family. “Her greatest love, however, was for her husband, her children, and her large extended family.”
Betbadal and Verdehou married in March 1997. The devout Catholic couple had three children, ages 10, 12 and 15.
Verdehyou last had contact with his wife the morning she was killed. They exchanged texts at around 8 a.m. about his Christmas shopping plans, he told the San Bernardino Sun.
Betbadal was scheduled to give supervisors and co-workers a presentation that morning at the Inland Regional Center, where the mass shooting took place.
Authorities are still investigating the motives that led husband-and-wife gunmen Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik to open fire. The young couple were later killed in a shootout with police.
"It is the ultimate irony that her life would be stolen from her," her Go Fund Me page said, "by what appears to be the same type of extremism that she fled so many years ago."