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Couple’s death may be murder-suicide

William Ferchland

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – A welfare check by authorities on Thursday turned into the discovery of an apparent murder-suicide of a married couple at an upscale residential neighborhood.

The couple, who were not identified pending notification of family, was found shot to death Thursday in the bedroom of an expensive vacation house at 2209 Toiyabe Trail. Authorities believe the couple had been dead for three days.

Pete Van Arnum, detective coroner for El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department, said an autopsy could be conducted today, depending on scheduling.

A handgun was used. No note or any other evidence determining a motive was found. Co-workers of the man called the sheriff’s department after he had not been seen or heard from in several days.

Neighbor Jackie Donaldson, 73, was familiar with the couple she knew as “Chuck and Marjory,” who were in their 60s. Donaldson said the couple used the house as a retreat from their apartment in New York and a place in the Sacramento area.

A former nurse, Donaldson said the woman was mentally ill.

“The woman needed a lot of help,” Donaldson said. “I don’t know how he could deal with her.”

She recalled the man saying he was an executive for a telephone company and a member of the New York Stock Exchange.

Donaldson said the couple went out to eat a lot and would visit their Tahoe house frequently. The trips had increased in length during the past six months. The couple had just returned from a Christmas trip back East, where they visited two sons and a daughter.

“(The neighbors) were all surprised,” Donaldson said. “I was not the least bit surprised.”

Chris and Sheri Neal, who live directly across the street from the dead couple’s home, said they didn’t know them that well. The man drove a gold Lexus and liked to remove snow.

“He shoveled his driveway at 1 in the morning,” Sheri Neal said. “We called him ‘Mr. Shovel.'”

The neighbors questioned the day of death, believed by authorities to be Monday, since they thought they saw the man midweek. In addition, neighbors thought they heard a loud boom Wednesday morning, but determined it was dynamite for avalanche control.

E-mail William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.