A marriage of 39 years ended Monday in gunfire and with an 86-year-old man in jail on suspicion of murdering his wife, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office.
Deschutes County sheriff's deputies arrived at 15953 Old Mill Drive, La Pine, around 8 a.m. to find Betty Jane Loeffler, 83, on the back porch, dead of an apparent gunshot wound, according to sheriff's Capt. Tim Edwards. Deputies took her husband, Lawrence Loeffler, to the county jail in Bend, where he remained Monday night on suspicion of murder.
“He was compliant and cooperative with us during the investigation,” Edwards said.
Deschutes County Chief Deputy District Attorney Mary Anderson declined to specify the type of gun, how many times the woman was shot or where she was shot.
The couple had apparently been married 39 years, Edwards said.
Brenda Helvey, who's lived next door to the Loefflers for three years, said the couple have a son and daughter who live in California. They could not be reached for comment.
Edwards said it was the first domestic dispute reported at the residence, but noted deputies had been called to the house before for what he called “minor neighborhood disputes.” Neither Loeffler has any previous arrests, according to Oregon court records.
A history of 911 calls as far back as 2006 and related to the home on Old Mill Road showed no previous incidents of violence. In June, police responded to a call related to theft, shoplifting or forgery, and in December to a call related to a heart problem.
At 8:04 a.m. Monday, authorities received a call reporting shots heard or fired at the home, and then two minutes later a call reporting a gunshot wound. Edwards said he believed Loeffler called authorities immediately after his wife was shot.
Some neighbors reported hearing more than one gunshot, Edwards said.
About 40 minutes after the first call, another call indicated Lawrence Loeffler was having trouble breathing, Edwards said.
Edwards said Loeffler did not appear to suffer from dementia or to be intoxicated when authorities arrived on the scene.
“They went in with their guns drawn and the whole nine yards,” Helvey said of the scene Monday, noting authorities had interviewed her but not informed her of the shooting.
She said the elderly couple, whom she described as “lovely,” had lived in the home for 22 years. Lawrence Loeffler turned 86 on Sunday.
“He just recently got out of the hospital, and we were there for her,” she said. She helped the Loefflers run errands and with other chores. The neighbor on the other side of the Loefflers took out the couple's trash on Monday and brought them the newspaper each day, she said.
“We weren't really close; we didn't know (the Loefflers) real well, but if they needed something they called us and we'd help them,” Helvey said. “They seemed like a lovely couple the way they looked at each other and talked to each other, and so in love.”
She described Betty Jane Loeffler as a sweet lady, a “little bitty thing.”
“I don't understand it,” Helvey said. “They say you never know.”
Edwards said he did not know the nature of any dispute between the couple before Betty Loeffler's death.
Lawrence Loeffler is expected to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. today.
If charged as a murder, the shooting would be the first such charge in Deschutes County since December 2011, when Jim Hargrave shot and killed his son in a domestic dispute at their home in Tumalo. Hargrave was convicted of murder in November.