Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Republic, WA: Republic couple found dead are Iraq war vet and wife

Washington State Patrol is investigating deaths

The Spokesman-Review

An Iraq war veteran and his wife were found shot to death this past weekend in what Republic residents said is a troubling case of murder and suicide that may be related to the veteran’s wartime stress.

Details were still emerging today, but the Omak Chronicle newspaper reported on its Web site that Jessica Armstrong and Chad Olson were found inside the barricaded home of Olson’s parents.

Olson, 21, is a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and a 2006 graduate of Republic High School. Armstrong, also 21, graduated from Curlew High School.

The deaths are being investigated by the Washington State Patrol, which was withholding the victim’s identities and other details until autopsies could be performed by the medical examiner today in Spokane County, said WSP Detective Ken Wade, who declined to say whether a weapon was found at the scene.

Olson joined the U.S. Marine Corps immediately after his high school graduation three years ago, according to the Web site of an organization that supports local soldiers in northeast and north central Washington. He had been a wrestler at the high school and qualified for the state tournament, said the Web site.

Ferry County Prosecutor Mike Sandona, who also serves as county coroner, told the Omak newspaper that the couple apparently had been married about two months but had separated. The bodies were discovered by one of Olson’s two brothers, along with notes that Sandona described as disconcerting.

Olson’s brother lived in a travel trailer on the family property, according to a neighbor.

The parents are longtime residents Mike and Mava Olson, of Republic. Mike Olson works at a gold mine near Republic, and Mava Olson is employed at the area hospital. Both of Chad Olson’s brothers were also high school wrestlers.

Olson recently was charged with second-degree burglary, third-degree malicious mischief and third-degree theft after allegedly stealing a case of whiskey June 25 from the state liquor store in Republic, Sandona told the Chronicle. He and two other men were arraigned on those charges July 10 and a juvenile was arraigned July 24.

Lester Godfrey, a neighbor of the Olsons and chaplain for the local American Legion, said that Chad Olson came from a solid, well-respected family and had a normal small-town childhood.

“I’ve watched them grow up,” he said of the three boys.

“He was very well-liked,” Godfrey said. “The whole family is very well-liked.”

He described Olson as strong, good-looking and charismatic. But he was apparently troubled with emotional problems caused by the violence he witnessed in Iraq, and had been drinking alcohol recently, Godfrey said.

Olson underwent treatment from the Veterans Administration, but told the medical personnel that he was OK, and may have tried to build an emotional wall around his war memories so he wouldn’t be haunted by them, Godfrey said.

Family members told him that Olson was not himself recently, Godfrey said, adding that Mike Olson gave him permission to talk with the news media.

Godfrey said he believes that the community of Republic will be understanding about the problems that Chad Olson was facing.

Godfrey said he did not know Armstrong.


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