Friday, February 10, 2012

Bellevue ‘in shock’ from tragedy

Friends, neighbors react to suspected murder-suicide


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Mayor Jon Anderson speaks during a 2005 Bellevue City Council meeting. Photo by Mountain Express

The city of Bellevue is reeling from the loss of former Mayor and civic supporter Jon Anderson and his ex-wife Linda Vaughan, who were both found dead Tuesday in what police believe is a case of murder-suicide.

As a result of the tragedy, friends and colleagues have called for increased public outreach to aid those who are troubled and might be considering harm to themselves or others.

"This is something that we need to have a look at as a community," said Shaun Mahoney, who served alongside Anderson on the City Council for several years. "It seems that every three or four months something like this happens.

"How do you process something like this? Jon was involved in everything. The city is in shock."

Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said a note found by police at the 320 Walnut St. home where Anderson and Vaughan had been living might be released to the public following a complete investigation.

"We are confident that it was a murder-suicide and that Vaughan was the victim," Gunter said.

Police have said both victims—who were found lying next to each other inside the house—apparently died from gunshot wounds from a revolver. Gunter said Anderson's and Vaughan's bodies have been taken to Boise for autopsies.

"Jon worked very hard for the city while he was on the City Council and as mayor," Mayor Chris Koch said. "He worked well with all staff members and helped the city stay fiscally responsible under some tough times."

Anderson served on the City Council from 2002 to 2005, when he was sworn in as mayor. He served as mayor for five years before resigning in June 2010, citing family and health issues.

During that time and until his death, Anderson was facing DUI charges that could have led to his imprisonment. Former colleagues say he was also providing care to Vaughan, who for several years had suffered from multiple sclerosis.

"I enjoyed working with Jon," Mahoney said. "He was a great guy, but had problems with alcohol. He was a caretaker in his own family. He was taking care of his dad and Linda. For the last eight months, he hadn't had a drink. Last week, he was in great spirits."

Anderson volunteered for many community events, including the Environmental Resource Center's Clean Sweep, Howard Preserve maintenance projects and the Halloween Haunted Forest. Koch said that during the past two years, Anderson also had helped out at the Hunger Coalition and the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley.

"He was also one of the biggest volunteers during the library remodel," Koch said. "People around town loved to see him and his dog strolling around. He would stop by elderly people's homes to see if they needed help or just to talk. He was a good friend to many people in the valley."

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Kimberly Coonis, executive director of the Senior Connection in Hailey, said Vaughan received six hours of in-home care each day.

"They were delightful people," Coonis said. "This caught all of us off-guard. Linda seemed pleasant and happy with life. Jon was always cordial. They worked in their yard and had their pets. They didn't seem like they were not looking forward to the next day."

Real estate agent and neighbor Karen Tackett said she had known Anderson for 12 years, talking with him while showing the house that he shared with Vaughan to a potential buyer three times in the past two weeks.

"He sounded great," Tackett said.

Tackett said the house had recently been put under contract to a potential buyer.

"This is a very sad tragedy," she said. "I think our community needs to create some kind of outreach plan to help people in need. We've lost too many members of this community to suicide. We as a community really need to find out how to help one another."

Mahoney said he has lost five friends to suicide in the last four years, including a close relative.

"Depression is a mental illness," he said. "Even a gregarious person can get in a dark hole and can't see their way out. There can be another side of a their life that we don't know about."

A determination on whether the incident was in fact a murder-suicide is expected once the investigation is completed.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com

24-hour Crisis Hotline:

The Blaine County Crisis Hotline offers assistance if you:

- Are considering suicide.

- Are a victim of domestic violence or sexual abuse.

- Are struggling with drug or alcohol dependence.

- Have lost a job and are encountering financial problems.

- Need an empathetic listener because you are lonely or discouraged or have no one else in your life.

For assistance, call 726-3596 or 788-3596.




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