Shootings last month that resulted in the deaths of a Lincoln couple have been determined to be a double suicide, Lincoln police said Wednesday.

Eric Garten, 58, shot himself in front of police officers who were called to the couple's home in southwest Lincoln on April 13. Garten died at the scene. His wife, Rachel Garten, 54, died a few days later from a gunshot wound.

Lincoln Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said investigators reached their conclusion of a double suicide after talking with family members and officers on the scene.

"The interviews and forensic evidence that we have indicate that Rachel Garten took her own life, followed by the same action by Eric Garten," Bliemeister said.

Just before 11 p.m. April 13, police and rescue crews were called to the couple's home in the 2300 block of Southwest 18th Street after Eric Garten's 86-year-old mother found Rachel Garten with a gunshot wound, Investigator Benjamin Pflanz said in an affidavit to search the home.

As police arrived, officers were directed to a bedroom, where they saw Rachel Garten, 54, in bed, with Eric Garten sitting next to her, holding a gun, Pflanz said.

Then Eric Garten, 58, shot himself.

Lincoln Fire and Rescue crews took Rachel Garten, who was unconscious, to a local hospital. She died April 16.

Pflanz said the mother told officers she was watching TV in her bedroom when a cat came into the room.

She walked into a hallway, she told police, and became suspicious that the door to the couple's bedroom was open.

As she went into their bedroom to investigate, she found her daughter-in-law lying on the bed with a pillow over her face, Pflanz said.

She removed the pillow, discovered the gunshot wound, found the bloody handgun nearby and put it on the couch in the living room, she told investigators. 

Then she went and told her son, who was in another room, the investigator said.

He "became distraught and made suicidal comments" to his mother, then found a different handgun and went into the bedroom where his wife was while his mother called 911, the affidavit said.

When looking at the family's history over recent weeks, Bliemeister said there was nothing that led police to believe that it was "anything but independent actions."

Bliemeister said no officers fired their guns.

Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon later confirmed a grand jury would not be called to review the deaths because Eric Garten was not being apprehended when he shot himself.

Grand juries, by law, review deaths in police custody or while being apprehended.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7241 or cspilinek@journalstar.com.


Newsroom intern

Fall semester newsroom intern at the Journal Star.

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