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Veteran, wife found dead in Republic

Couple, both 21, had separated

An Iraq war veteran and his wife were found shot to death in Republic on Saturday in what appeared to be a murder and suicide.

Ferry County Prosecutor Mike Sandona, who also serves as county coroner, said Monday the cause of death seemed to be from gunshot wounds, but the crime scene was “such a mess … it was hard to determine.”

Sandona said the deaths appeared to be a murder and suicide, “but that’s conjecture on our part.”

Details were still emerging Monday, but the Omak-Okanagon County Chronicle newspaper reported that the bodies of Jessica Armstrong and Chad Olson were found in the home of Olson’s parents.

Olson, 21, was 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 details until after autopsies were performed Monday by the medical examiner in Spokane County, said WSP Detective Ken Wade, who declined to say whether a weapon was found at the scene.

As a high school wrestler, Olson qualified for the state tournament, according to a group that supports local service members in northeast and north-central Washington. He joined the U.S. Marine Corps right out of high school, according to veteranlegacyproject.org.

Sandona told the Omak newspaper that the couple apparently had been married about two months but had separated. Their bodies were discovered by one of Olson’s two brothers, who also found notes that Sandona described as disconcerting. The doors reportedly had been barricaded from inside the home.

The brother lived in a travel trailer on the family property, a neighbor said.

Olson was the son of longtime Republic residents Mike and Mava Olson. Mike Olson works at a gold mine near Republic; Mava Olson is employed at a hospital.

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

A neighbor of the Olsons said the veteran had been suffering from war-related stress.

Lester Godfrey, who’s also the chaplain for the local American Legion, said Chad Olson came from a solid, well-respected family and had a normal, small-town childhood.

“I’ve watched them grow up,” Godfrey said of the three Olson boys. “He was very well liked. The whole family is very well liked.”

He described Olson as strong, good-looking and charismatic.

But he was apparently troubled by the violence he witnessed in Iraq and had been drinking recently, Godfrey said.

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

Family members told him that Olson had not been himself recently, Godfrey said.

Godfrey said he did not know Armstrong.



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