While Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies say murder-suicide is a possibility in the death of a Newport-area elderly couple, the official cause of death has not been determined.
The couple, Frank and Ethel Korbel, were discovered Sunday inside their home at 38130 N. Starr Road, south of Newport. Family reported they hadn’t heard from them in about a week, nor had they seen any signs of life coming from the home with no working water or electricity.
The Spokane County Medical Examiner has listed their deaths as “pending” as of Friday morning, with no official cause or manner.
Detective Marc Melville wrote in a search warrant filed Tuesday in Spokane Superior Court that the couple were in “deteriorated” health, according to the family. Ethel Korbel, 77, was suffering from congestive heart failure and was an amputee, while Frank Korbel, 79, reportedly had diabetes and prostate cancer.
Melville noted that Ethel Korbel’s sister said Frank Korbel had made threatening comments in the past regarding murder-suicide.
Frank Korbel “had made a comment several years before, something to the effect of it ever came down to it, he would cause a murder-suicide,” Melville wrote. “She described Frank as having mental problems and that he had previously threatened to shoot anyone who came on his property, to include law enforcement and his own daughter.”
Another of Ethel Korbel’s sisters reported to Melville she heard gunshots last Thursday at about 8 a.m. and there was a “30-second delay between each shot.” She said the shots came from the direction of the couple’s home.
Deputy Mark Gregory, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said Thursday that detectives are tentatively treating the situation as an “unattended death.”
Upon arriving at the home around 3:30 p.m. Sunday, deputies noted the front gate remained open, and the front door unlocked, which family reported was odd as Frank Korbel “never leaves the door unlocked.” Snow around the home also showed no indication of foot traffic.
Once they entered the house, according to the warrant, deputies found the couple “obviously deceased” on the home’s lower level. The temperature inside was about 30 degrees and Ethel Korbel was wearing only a shirt.
Ethel Korbel was found on her back with her head under her wheelchair, with Frank Korbel laying on his left side. Both had small amounts of dried blood at the corner of their mouths, but otherwise showed no “obvious signs of trauma.”
About 20 feet away from Frank Korbel was a shotgun in the corner of the room, though there were no signs it was fired. Detectives also found a pistol magazine on a dresser in the couple’s bedroom.
“It is unknown how Ethel and Frank Korbel came to be deceased at this time,” Melville concluded.
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