A triple murder-suicide in Hacienda Heights is pulling the responses of neighbors and relatives in different directions. It seems that Don Crabtree killed his daughter in law, Rita Delehanty, 62, who suffered severe Alzheimer’s; his wife, Carol Crabtree, 80, who suffered from chronic joint pain and was stuck in a wheelchair; and finally himself, 84, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. He shot them both before shot himself twice, once with a handgun, and once with a shotgun, but apparently not before calling 911.
The motive for the killings is not clear, but their son, Jim Crabtree, has an interpretation: “This is the classic ending of three people with terminal illnesses,” he explained to reporters gathered outside their home, as reported by the Huffington Post. “The pain and misery that comes from this dementia, until you’ve lived it you don’t get it.”
Apparently somewhat relieved by the outcome, Jim explained how his parents would take care of his wife, who once was a nurse like him, for hours while he went to work; how his wife no longer at all knew who he was. “My wife didn’t know who I was. My wife didn’t know we were married. You try to help her, she yells, she screams, she hits you.”
He later stated that “when somebody dies, you don’t want to go out and say I’m overjoyed my parents and wife are dead. But in some cases, my wife died years ago.”
Perhaps only somebody who has had to take care of a dementia patient can understand such ambivalence, but the neighbors seem somewhat understanding. Alice Parrish said, “It’s shocking. You don’t expect it in your own backyard,” but also noted that “[Carol] couldn’t walk anymore, she was in a lot of pain.”
Another neighbor, Marjorie Beauer, said “I feel more grief for them then calling it murder. There ought to be another word…. It was probably just a mercy killing. I advocate for the right to die with dignity, and we don’t have that in California.”