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Residents say Republic couple signaled no trouble

Olson (The Spokesman-Review)
Olson (The Spokesman-Review)

Pair were drinking but seemed ‘fine’ night before deaths

Iraq war veteran Chad Olson and his wife, Jessica Armstrong, had been drinking at Madonna’s Bar and Grill in Republic, Wash., on Friday night but were not fighting, just hours before Olson is believed to have used a gun to kill her and then himself at his childhood home.

Washington State Patrol investigators were continuing their probe into events that led to the apparent murder-suicide early Saturday.

Alice Barnes, owner of Madonna’s, said her staff reported that the couple did not show signs of trouble Friday evening. “They were fine when they were here,” she said.

Another Republic resident, attorney Stephen Graham, said he spoke briefly with Olson during a chance encounter Friday and saw Olson leave for a mountain-bike ride shortly before sundown that evening. “He was friendly and seemed cheerful,” Graham said.

Early Saturday, one of Olson’s brothers found the bodies of Olson and Armstrong and called police. At the scene, in a room devoted to hunting, one entry was blocked by furniture and another door was blocked by a pool table that had been moved in front of it, authorities said. A third entry was not blocked.

Contradictory and rambling notes were found in the home, including one that talked of suicide and another that asked authorities to find the perpetrator, said Ferry County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Sandona.

Olson’s parents had been away for the weekend.

Chad Olson returned from Iraq about eight months ago and had not been working, but he was planning to take a job Monday at a local tire store, neighbor Lester Godfrey said.

The couple had been married since July, and postings on Chad Olson’s MySpace site indicated the couple, both 21, had been having problems. Olson posted on the Web site that his mood was “bummed” at 2:41 a.m.

Chad Olson was a graduate of Republic High School. Jessica Armstrong graduated from Curlew High School and reportedly also was unemployed.

Godfrey said he and Olson family members believe Olson was suffering from emotional problems stemming from his war experiences on a Marine helicopter and that he’d sought mental-health treatment. Godfrey said Olson had been a helicopter crew chief and gunner and was given a general discharge.

The conflicting pictures of calm and then violence continued to puzzle authorities Tuesday.

“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Sandona said.

An autopsy performed on Olson in Spokane on Monday showed he suffered a gunshot wound, but WSP Detective Sgt. Ken Wade declined to provide further details, including the type of weapon used.

An autopsy on Armstrong was being completed Tuesday.

The investigation was turned over to WSP because the Republic Police Department, with a chief and one officer, doesn’t have the expertise to process the kind of evidence taken from the crime scene.

Sandona said authorities are working under the theory that Olson killed Armstrong and then turned the weapon on himself. The autopsy results will include a toxicology test to determine whether Olson or Armstrong had used alcohol or other intoxicants, he said.

Olson was facing charges of second-degree burglary, third-degree malicious mischief and third-degree theft for allegedly stealing whiskey from the state liquor store in Republic in June, an incident involving three other people. Sandona described that case as “a bunch of stupidity.”