Couple Found Dead from Murder-Suicide After Man Said He Couldn't Afford Health Care for His Wife
A Washington man ended the lives of both himself and his wife this week after expressing his concerns in a note about being unable to pay the medical expenses for her ongoing health conditions.
Following the tragedy in Ferndale on Wednesday morning, state officials are investigating the incident, which was determined to be a murder-suicide, according to a statement from Sheriff Bill Elfo with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.
The couple has also been identified by the Whatcom County Medical Examiner as Brian S. Jones, 77, and his wife, Patricia Whitney-Jones, 76, PEOPLE confirms.
Shortly before 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, deputies responded to the residence near Ferndale after receiving a 911 call from Jones who told the dispatcher, “I am going to shoot myself,” Elfo said.
While on the phone, Jones explained that he had written a “note for the sheriff with information and instructions.”
Despite the dispatcher’s best efforts to keep him on the line, Jones then disconnected the call and said, “We will be in the front bedroom,” according to Elfo.
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When deputies arrived at the scene, they set up a perimeter around the house and attempted to intervene for about one hour with a crisis negotiator and loud hailer.
It was sadly too late, however, as officials then used a robot-mounted camera to look inside the home, which is when they located the bodies of the married couple.
Sheriff Elfo said that Jones was found lying next to his wife, both deceased from apparent gunshot wounds.
Authorities also found several notes around the home, “citing severe ongoing medical problems with the wife and expressing concerns that the couple did not have sufficient resources to pay for medical care.”
Two dogs were also found inside the residence, both of which since been turned over to the Human Society for care, as well as a number of firearms that were impounded.
State officials are now working to investigate the incident and notify the next of kin, whose information was left in the note.
In a statement to PEOPLE, the Whatcom County Medical Examiner said Jones shot his wife once in the back of the head before turning the semi-automatic handgun on himself three times, including once in the head.
The couple’s manner of death was also confirmed to be a homicide and suicide, according to the Whatcom County Medical Examiner.
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In the days since the tragedy, neighbors have been left shocked and “dumbfounded” as they work to process the news of the couple’s death.
Fellow neighbor Sherrie Schulteis told The Lynden Tribune that she often conversed with Jones and watched out for each other’s homes, but never knew the extent to which he was struggling mentally and financially.
“[Brian and I] were always waving and talking about our yards or our flowers,” she told the outlet. “It’s a little tiny community where we all know each other, but we don’t really know each other.”
Sheriff Elfo also said he hopes this heartbreaking incident will remind others in the future to seek help from 911 when needed.
“It is very tragic that one of our senior citizens would find himself in such desperate circumstances where he felt murder and suicide were the only option[s],” Elfo said in a statement on Facebook. “Help is always available with a call to 9-1-1.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.