American elderly couple's apparent murder-suicide after struggling with medical bills shocks community

Patricia Whitney-Jones and Brian Jones.
Patricia Whitney-Jones and Brian Jones. Photo credit: Patricia Whitney-Jones / Facebook.

The apparent murder-suicide of an elderly American couple struggling with medical bills has prompted an outpouring of grief online.

According to a statement from Washington state's Whatcom County Sheriff's Office, a 77-year-old man and 76-year-old woman were found dead in their Ferndale home on Thursday (local time) in what police say was likely a murder-suicide.

The couple has been identified by American media - including CNN, People and Fox News - as Brian Jones and his wife Patricia Whitney-Jones.

The local police were contacted on Thursday morning by Jones who said he was going to shoot himself and had left a note for the Sheriff. While the dispatcher attempted to keep him on the phone, Jones eventually hung up after saying: "We will be in the front bedroom".

Fifteen minutes later police were at the property and a crisis negotiator attempted to contact the occupants. After an hour, a robot mounted camera entered the house to find two bodies.

Jones was found with a gunshot wound lying beside his wife, also dead from a gunshot wound.

Notes found in the house cited "ongoing medical problems" with Whitney-Jones and that "the couple did not have sufficient resources to pay for medical care".

The cops also found two dogs in the house, which were taken into custody.

The local Sheriff, Bill Elfo, said it was a difficult situation.

"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 911."

A local newspaper, the Lynden Tribune, also confirmed it had received the identity of the couple from the Whatcom medical examiner. The newspaper spoke to the couple's neighbour Sherrie Schulteis, who said those on the street were "dumbfounded".

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

A post on the police's Facebook page has received thousands of likes and shares. Many commented that it was an example of poor care for elderly people.

"We as a country should hide our faces in shame that one of our most vulnerable demographics isn't able to afford the care they need," said one user. Another said: "We do not take care of our senior citizens or veterans on this country."

"Our neighbours, especially seniors, should be checked on and taken care of. Tears. This is making me check on my neighbours more often."

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