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Murder-suicide claims Sterling native

Two die in Arizona; suicide notes found

Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 2:49 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 10:27 p.m. CDT

MESA, Ariz. – One week ago, a memorial service was held for an 11-year-old girl and her mother, a Sterling native, who were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide at their home in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa.

According to the Arizona Republic, asphyxiation and a prescription drug overdose contributed to the tragic April 21 deaths of Marcia Louise Wentzel, 45, and her daughter, Caitlin Elizabeth Wentzel.

Wentzel's parents are David and Judith Lowe.

Mesa Police Sgt. Tony Landato told the Arizona Republic that the mother and daughter suffered from "debilitating, long-term medical conditions" and that two suicide notes were found in the home, one from Caitlin and another from Marcia.

The mother and daughter were found by Joseph Wentzel, Marcia's husband and Caitlin's father, when he returned home from work, police said.

Neighbors, speaking to the Arizona Republic, described Marcia as a devoted and caring mother to Caitlin, who was wheelchair-bound and home-schooled by her mother.

The neighbors also called Caitlin a highly intelligent girl and a voracious reader. Her service dog was named Keller, after Helen Keller.

According to their shared obituary, Marcia, born in Sterling, graduated from Sterling High School in 1987 and from the University of Illinois in 1990.

She suffered from an extremely rare neurological disease known as SPS, or Stiff-Person Syndrome. There is no cure for it, and doctors still don't know what causes it. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, it's characterized by "fluctuating muscle rigidity in the trunk and limbs and a heightened sensitivity to stimuli such as noise, touch, and emotional distress, which can set off muscle spasms."

Caitlin, too, suffered from an incurable disease: osteogenesis imperfecta. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, people with this condition have bones that break easily, often from mild trauma or for no apparent reason at all.

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