Elderly Man Who Couldn't Afford Health Care Kills His Wife, Then Himself

An elderly man in Washington is suspected of killing his wife before taking own life, apparently because they could not afford her medical bills.

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office is treating the deaths of the 77-year-old man and his 76-year-old wife as a suspected murder/suicide.

On the morning of August 7, officers were called by the husband at the 6500 block of Timmeran Lane near Ferndale at around 8:23 a.m.; he informed them that he was going to shoot himself. The man said he had prepared a note for the Sheriff with information and instructions.

The dispatcher attempted to keep the man on the line, to no avail. The 77-year-old eventually ended the call by saying: "We will be in the front bedroom."

Around 15 minutes later, officers arrived at the home. They set up a perimeter around the residence, fearing an "active shooter" situation was still in place.

Using the telephone and a megaphone, a crisis negotiator attempted to contact the husband and wife inside the home for about an hour. Then the department deployed a robot-mounted camera to enter the home.

The husband and wife were found dead from suspected gunshot wounds. Officers found several notes which cited "severe ongoing medical problems with the wife and expressing concerns that the couple did not have sufficient resources to pay for medical care," according to a press release.

Detectives are still working to notify the couple's out-of-state family members, who were identified in notes left around the home. The deceased couple's names have not been disclosed by the sheriff's office.

"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. Help is always available with a call to 9-1-1," Sheriff Bill Elfo said in a statement.

Sherrie Schulteis, who lives on the same street as the couple, said she is "dumbfounded" by their deaths.

"[The husband and I] were always waving and talking about our yards or our flowers," Schulteis told the Lynden Tribune. "It's a little tiny community where we all know each other, but we don't really know each other."

Two dogs found in the residence were turned over to the Humane Society for care. Numerous firearms which were also discovered were impounded for safekeeping.

If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.)

An ambulance transporting a patient is reflected in the window of another ambulance at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on October 9, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. Police are investigating a suspected murder/suicide involving two eldery people who could not afford medical bills. David McNew/Getty

Correction (8/9/19): This headline has been updated.