Deaths of estranged couple in Kindersley, Sask., believed to be murder-suicide: RCMP

RCMP say the deaths of two people Thursday in Kindersley, Sask., are believed to have been a murder-suicide.

Police found the bodies of a man and woman at a residence on the 1000 block of 1st Street W.

RCMP say Elsie Gartner, 64, is believed to have been killed by her husband, David Michael Gartner, 66, in Kindersley, Sask., on Thursday. David is then believed to have killed himself. (Elsie Gartner/Facebook)

RCMP say the deaths of two people Thursday in Kindersley, Sask., are believed to have been a murder-suicide.

RCMP believe David Michael Gartner, 66, shot his estranged wife Elsie, 64, and then turned the gun on himself, according to details released Friday.

"This couple is well known within the community of Kindersley," RCMP Cpl. Rob King said.

Elsie was a health-care worker at a seniors care home and David an oilfield worker, said Kindersley Mayor Rod Perkins.

They had four children, all of whom work in the town of 4,600 people, where "everybody knows them," he said.

Marge Bailey, a friend of the family and pastor to some of the family, passed on the family's gratitude for the support they've received.

"The family are most grateful for prayer, support, food, donations and the love extended by so many in this compassionate community," Bailey said.

Reports of a gun being fired

Police received a report around 10 a.m. CST Thursday morning of a gun being fired at a home in the area.

King said one of the daughters of the couple had fled the house and then called police.

Local residents tell CBC David was living in the home but that it had been sold. The daughter had been helping Elsie move things out that morning.

Kindersley RCMP and officers from surrounding detachments secured the residence and surrounding area and then waited for the RCMP's emergency response team.

King said officers repeatedly tried to make contact with anyone inside the house but received no response. 

RCMP say David Michael Gartner, 66, is believed to have killed his wife, Elsie Gartner, and then himself in Kindersley, Sask., on Thursday. (Elsie Gartner/Facebook)

When the response team arrived, they used a robot to first gain entry into the house around 3 p.m. CST.

"A window was broken out. A robot was put in and then went through the house to assess the situation and then members followed afterwards, once it was deemed to be safe," King said.

Once inside, they found the two bodies.

"It certainly wasn't the conclusion any of us wanted to hear or see," Perkins said.

King said the couple were in the process of getting a divorce but had never come to the attention of the RCMP for any type of domestic violence situation.

Police seized one long gun found in the house.

'Everybody knows them'

By Friday, the front window was boarded up. A "sold" sign swung in the wind, and a police SUV sat parked in the driveway.

The Gartners had lived in Kindersley for around 40 years, Perkins said.

Elsie was part of a bowling league in town, and friends told CBC she spent a lot of time with her daughters.

"It's very, very sad, I think, when the people have been there that long," Perkins said. "It touches a lot of people because everybody knows them."

Mayor Rod Perkins said he knows the town to be supportive in any tragedy, and expects the same in this case. (CBC)

With rumours spreading quickly on Thursday, the mayor said it was hard to sort fact from fiction, so he focused on security.

Before the bodies were discovered, police blocked off an area of the town and told people in the perimeter to stay inside. Local schools went into "hold and secure" mode as they cancelled bus routes from the Elizabeth Middle School.

The town's pool and ice arena were also put under hold and secure protocols, with multiple teams participating in a hockey tournament inside.

Uncharted waters

From the local hockey rink, Perkins was kept apprised of major developments, like when police equipped with shields entered the home.

It's a rink where Perkins had seen David Gartner, a fellow hockey fan, many times over the years.

Recently, he said, the two seemed to run into each other every time they were on a grocery run.

Perkins said there is a well-equipped trauma response team that has responded to the incident, but still, he said nothing like this has ever happened in the time he's lived in Kindersley.

"We're all in uncharted waters, basically," he said.

Perkins checked the local post office for memorial postings, but said nothing has been announced yet.

Autopsies are being conducted Friday.