Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mapleton, IL: Mapleton husband and wife dead in apparent murder-suicide

If anything had been wrong at the Ledbetters' rural Peoria County home, it was betrayed by neither history nor any recent fears.

Just hours before Emmett Ledbetter, 67, apparently shot and killed his wife, Rebecca, 52, then turned the gun on himself Tuesday night, the woman had been with family and not mentioned any problems at home.

"As far as I know, everything was just fine," said her mother, Suzanne Johnson. "I can't figure out why he did it - I didn't think that he was that kind of person."

The couple who lived at 6702 S. Harkers Corner Road did not have a documented history of domestic violence, nor did either party apparently share fears with close family members.

But about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Rebecca Ledbetter called 911 because her husband was shooting a gun inside the house and threatening her, according to reports.

A deputy with the Peoria County Sheriff's Department told dispatchers to have her leave the house while he was en route, but the woman refused. She apparently wanted to remain inside to protect her dogs.

Dispatchers heard two gunshots in quick succession at 6:35 p.m., then the line went silent.

The house - a tidy brick ranch with well-manicured landscaping and a recreational vehicle parked on the side, surrounded by barren agricultural fields - was quiet when police arrived.

After calling out to the occupants and not getting a response, deputies approached and saw both bodies near the rear glass patio door. A gun was near Emmett Ledbetter. The screen door was closed, but someone had slightly opened the sliding glass door.

Emmett and Rebecca Ledbetter were pronounced dead at the scene at 7:45 p.m., according to Peoria County Coroner Johnna Ingersoll. Both appeared to have died from gunshot wounds, though preliminary causes of death won't be determined until autopsies are performed Thursday.

A release from Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy noted the deaths are being investigated as an apparent murder-suicide.

That outcome is one Johnson couldn't fathom for her daughter earlier in the day, when Rebecca Ledbetter picked her up to take her to a doctor's appointment.

"She would visit me (often), and I looked forward to seeing her," Johnson said. "She didn't let on that there was anything wrong."

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