An elderly Upper Macungie Township man killed his wife then himself in what family members say was an act of “profound love” because of his wife's worsening dementia.
On Friday, the Lehigh County Coroner’s Office ruled that Charles Snelling, 81, shot himself but said the death of his wife, Adrienne, also 81, was still pending.
The couple’s family believes that Adrienne was killed by Charles before he took his own life.
Their bodies were found Thursday morning inside their Church Street home in Fogelsville, Lehigh County. They had been married 61 years.
Snelling was a prominent figure in local Republican politics and had served as the chairman of the authority that manages Reagan and Dulles airports in Washington, D.C.
The couple was also honored with an Associates' Award by Adrienne's Alma Mater Ceder Crest College in 2007.
Ceder Crest College President Carmen Twillie Ambar remembered the couple's involvement with the college:
“At Cedar Crest College, we mourn the loss of two wonderful and caring people deeply involved with and dedicated to the community and our institution for more than 60 years. I had the opportunity to meet and know both Adrienne and Charles, but particularly Charles in his role as a member of our Board of Trustees. I always welcomed and appreciated his clarity of purpose, his strong voice, and his commitment to this College. We extend our sympathy, thoughts and prayers to family and friends of Adrienne and Charles during this difficult time.”
A statement released by the family says the couple struggled to manage the effects of Adrienne Snelling's Alzheimer's disease.
"For the past several years our mother had been afflicted by Alzheimer's, and together they struggled greatly to manage the effects of this devastating disease.
"After apparently reaching the point where he could no longer bear to see the love of his life deteriorate further, our father ended our mother's life and then took his own life as well. This is a total shock to everyone in the family, but we know he acted out of deep devotion and profound love."