A man who always sleeps with a loaded 9 mm pistol tucked under his pillow shot to death his high school sweetheart and wife of 22 years as she lay sleeping, but says he doesn’t know how it happened.
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department has not determined whether the shooting was accidental, said spokesman Damon Coates.
Michelle A. Hermsen, a certified nurse’s aide and mother of six, died early Monday morning on the way to the hospital. She was 37.
“I heard a gunshot, then smelled the gunpowder, and I realized it was real,” her husband, Kenneth, said Tuesday. “I shook my wife. She was still moving, but she wouldn’t wake up. I rolled her head over. That’s when I realized she was hit. I started screaming and called 911.”
Kenneth Hermsen said he always kept the loaded pistol under his pillow for protection because he often hears suspicious noises at night. He said he heard a prowler Sunday evening.
But how he ended up shooting his wife is one big blur, Hermsen said. He said he knows he went to sleep with the gun under his pillow, but he doesn’t know if his hand was holding it or how he pulled the trigger. The gun does not have a safety lock.
According to the Vital Records Unit of the Oregon Health Division, 12 people died in unintentional firearm accidents at home in 1995, the latest year for which statistics are available.
The Hermsens met when they both were students at Reynolds High School in Troutdale. They dropped out and got married when he was 16 and she was 15.
On Tuesday, tears welled up in Kenneth Hermsen’s eyes as he described the woman he loved for 23 years.
“She was beautiful, lovely, the best mother, the best wife, very loving,” he said, standing outside the Bateman Carroll Funeral Chapel & Crematory where he was making arrangements for Friday’s funeral.
The couple’s children are ages 8, 10, 12, 18, 19 and 21. They also have four grandchildren.