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Shotgun wounds killed couple

Autopsies performed Tuesday on a Nevada City couple found dead in their home on Oak Ridge Road reveal they both died of gunshot wounds, as investigators try to piece together a motive for what could be a murder- suicide.

Herman Theodore “Ted” Theal, Jr., 67, and his wife Carrie Ruth Theal, 57, were found by a neighbor Monday morning lying on their living room floor with a shotgun near their bodies. Two shotgun shell casings near the bodies were also found by Nevada County Sheriff’s investigators.

The initial autopsy, performed Tuesday in the Placer County Coroner’s Office, revealed Ted Theal died from a single gunshot wound to the head and Carrie Theal died from a single gunshot wound to the right side of her lower abdomen.



According to Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Maggie Deetz, Carrie Theal worked for the district for several years doing secretarial work before retiring in 2004.

She worked in the business office in the district building on Ridge Road in the accounts payable department, then in the Park Avenue Alternative Education Site as a secretary.




“She was a lovely lady,” Deetz said. “She was a very sweet, soft-spoken, kind and thoughtful person.”

The Theals’ neighbor, David Ebrahimi, said Ted Theal was retired, but volunteered years ago for the senior assistance program Meals on Wheels.

The Theals, Deetz said, were thought of as a very nice couple.

“It’s shocking,” Deetz said. “This is so sad.”

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to discover what went on at the Oak Ridge Road home, which did not appear ransacked and did not show signs of forced entry.

Evidence at the crime scene so far implies one of the victims may have been a suicide, but investigators have yet to determine who pulled the trigger or who died first.

“We still can’t tell what the circumstances are,” said Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Salivar. “The pathologist will probably determine that in the next day or two.”

Detectives performed gunshot residue tests on the couple’s hands Monday, but the results from those tests will take the California Department of Justice at least three months to produce, Salivar said.

The 12-gauge shotgun found near the bodies is available for fingerprinting, and it will be tested if the pathologist’s report does not provide a clue as to who fired the gun, Salivar said.

He said it would be possible for Ted Theal to have shot himself in the head with the shotgun.

“That happens all the time,” Salivar said.

He said there was no sign of a struggle or break-in at the Theal’s large two-story home.

Investigators have interviewed a man who lives in a guest house on their property, and he is not a suspect.

There are no suspects at this time, Salivar said.

Deputies have interviewed the Theals’ family members in the Modesto area including Mrs. Theal’s brother and parents, and the couple’s daughter, who lives in Las Vegas, Nev. and reportedly grew up in Nevada County.

Salivar said there was no evidence that either of the Theals suffered from an illness that might prompt a suicide pact.

No suicide note was found at the scene, he said, and there were no reports from the couple’s family members or friends that they had planned to commit suicide.

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To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister e-mail robynm@the union.com or call 477-4236.


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