MASON (AP) – Investigators suspect that a former police chief abducted his estranged wife and drove her to a Lansing-area motel, where he fatally shot her and himself, a sheriff said Wednesday.
Mason police found bodies believed to be those of Gary and Rhonda Bucholtz of Port Hope while conducting a welfare check Tuesday.
Gary Bucholtz was police chief in Bad Axe for about 10 years. The city has about 3,500 residents and is county seat of Huron County at the tip of Michigan’s heavily agricultural Thumb region. The motel is about 10 miles south-southeast of Lansing and about 110 miles southeast of Bad Axe.
The Huron Daily Tribune in Bad Axe reported that Huron County Sheriff Kelly Hanson said relatives contacted his department after the couple disappeared. He said they had apparently not been heard from since about 9 p.m. Monday.
“Family members were very concerned because of marital difficulties that had evolved over the last several months,” Hanson said. “They were worried about the couple’s well-being.”
The sheriff said Mason police contacted him late Tuesday.
“They advised they were working on an incident that possibly involved our missing couple,” Hanson said. “They stated they had a deceased male and female in a local motel room and the Port Hope couple’s Uplander van was in the parking lot.”
He said the investigation produced evidence “suggesting the female may have been abducted” from Huron County and that it appeared both died in the Mason motel room from gunshot wounds in a possible murder-suicide.
Mason Police Chief John Stressman said the room at Heb’s Inn & Motel was booked at 3 a.m. Tuesday. Police were alerted after the couple had not left at the 11 a.m. checkout time, Stressman told the Lansing State Journal.
Stressman said investigators will confirm the man and woman’s identities through dental records and DNA tests. They will look at autopsy results to confirm they died of gunshot wounds, he said.
“It’s still an open investigation and we’ve still got a lot of legwork to do,” Stressman said.
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