Investigators believe an elderly man shot and killed his wife and daughter-in-law before turning the gun on himself in a murder-suicide fueled primarily by deteriorating health concerns.
Dan Crabtree, 84, his wife Carol, 80, and the couple’s daughter-in-law Rita Delehanty were all found dead Wednesday morning in the quiet suburban neighborhood of Hacienda Heights – a community of about 50,000 residents just west of Los Angeles.
Early reports indicate Dan Crabtree may have shot and killed the two women before turning the gun on himself in what police are labeling a “mercy killing.” All three victims suffered from a combination of physical and mental illnesses.
According to the couple’s son, Jim Crabtree -who was also married to Rita Delehanty – rapidly deteriorating health conditions likely led to the deaths of his wife and parents.
"This is the classic ending of three people with terminal illnesses," he said Wednesday afternoon.
Crabtree said his mother was suffering from debilitating joint pain that limited her to a wheelchair while his father was showing symptoms of early-stage Alzheimer’s.
Although his wife was the youngest of the three by almost 20 years, Crabtree said her mid-stage Alzheimer’s was so bad she often didn’t know the two were married.
"When somebody dies, you don't want to go out and say I'm overjoyed my parents and my wife are dead," Crabtree said, "But in some cases, my wife died years ago."
"My wife didn't know who I was. My wife didn't know we were married. You try to help her, she yells, she screams, she hits you,” he said. "The pain and misery that comes with this dementia, until you lived it, you don't get it.”
And investigators believe it was that pain that eventually drove the elder Crabtree to shoot his wife and daughter-in-law before turning the weapon on himself. Responding officers discovered both Carol Crabtree and Delehanty dead inside the house from multiple gunshot wounds.
The elder Crabtree was found clinging to life on the couple’s backyard porch, gravely injured from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. A gun and phone were also found by Crabtree’s side.
Investigators believe he may have been the caller to dial 911.
"There's no indication that anybody else was in the house except the three of them," Los Angeles County Sheriff Lt. Dave Dolson said. “We believe it's a murder-suicide. All evidence right now points to the fact that the husband likely shot and killed the daughter-in-law and his wife, and then shot himself.”