Rangely deaths shock family, friends
RANGELY — Danette Graham loved her in-laws. She drove from Vernal, Utah, three times a week to check in on them.
And she never would have imagined Carlos Graham Sr. would shoot and kill his wife of 40-some years and then turn the gun on himself.
“No, not in a million years,” she said. “I never would have dreamed something like this. In all the years, I never heard him say anything like that.”
Authorities have ruled last week’s shootings a murder-suicide. The bodies of Carlos Graham, 68, and his wife, Lucille, 64, were discovered the morning of Sept. 16 in a bedroom in their home, just west of town.
Both died of gunshot wounds to the head. A 12-gauge shotgun was recovered at the scene, near the body of Carlos Graham. Investigators found gunshot residue on his hands.
Barbara Wade of Rangely was a long-time friend of the Grahams. She, like Danette Graham, has a hard time believing that Carlos Graham would kill his wife and then shoot himself.
“He worshiped the ground she walked on,” said Wade, who has lived in Rangely for 51 years. “She’s been handicapped for, say, two years. He pushed her wheelchair. He cooked the meals. He cleaned the house. I think it was more than they could handle.”
Investigators speculate Lucille Graham’s poor health may have been a factor. But that is speculation. There is no way to know for sure what motivated Carlos Graham. No suicide note was left behind.
“We looked at it from the get-go as a double homicide,” said Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s investigator Roy Kinney. “We looked at it from every angle we could.”
In the end, there may be no way to know for sure what happened, and especially, why.
“It’s a shame,” Kinney said. “We never will (know why).”
Kinney, who lives in Rangely, knew the Grahams.
“I think everybody knew them,” Kinney said. “They were good people. I never heard a bad word about them, ever. They were very well-respected, well-liked.”
Kinney, an 18-year member of the sheriff’s department, was recently promoted from patrol sergeant to investigator. In fact, Sept. 16 was his second day on the job in his new role.
“You wonder about what will be the first big case you will work,” he said.
Kinney had no idea it would happen so soon, or that he would know the people involved. But that made him even more determined to do a good job.
“When you are investigating a crime scene, you want to take care of them (the victims) the way you’d want your own family members taken care of,” Kinney said.
Sheriff’s officers had been out to the Graham residence before, Kinney said.
“I know we were out here on several medical-assist calls,” Kinney said.
Lucille Graham’s health had been deteriorating in recent years, forcing her to retire from her job at the Rangely District Hospital. She worked in housekeeping.
“She was a heavy smoker,” Wade said, who saw Lucille Graham on a regular basis and talked to her on the phone almost daily. “She would be here an hour and a half, and she might smoke 12 cigarettes. She wasn’t able to get around at the end. She used to be really heavy, but there was nothing left of her, nothing.”
Danette Graham said doctors hadn’t been able to determine what exactly was wrong with Lucille Graham.
“I really don’t know what all of her health problems were,” Danette Graham said. “They really couldn’t get to the bottom of what was wrong. I was never told she had emphysema, but she smoked so heavily.”
The Grahams had been scheduled to go to Denver on Sept. 17, so Lucille Graham could see a specialist. They never made the trip.
“I received a call (the morning of Sept. 16) from his employer, asking where he (Carlos Graham) was,” said Danette Graham. “I said I didn’t know. I said to send someone back over there with a police officer to see if they were OK.”
Carlos Graham worked for Chevron Pipe Line Company since 1992.
Wade saw the Grahams on Sept. 14, two days before the shootings.
“They came over to get a clock I bought her at a yard sale,” Wade said. “She collected clocks.”
That was the last time Wade saw the Grahams.
Like she typically did, Wade tried calling Lucille Graham on the morning of Sept. 16, to see how she was doing. There was no answer.
“I would call her every morning, or she would call me,” Wade said. “I kept calling and calling, but I couldn’t get a hold of her.
“Monday had been his (Carlos Graham’s) day off, so I figured they must have left early for her doctor’s appointment (in Denver).”
Later that day, Wade received a call from Danette Graham, who told her Carlos and Lucille Graham had been found dead in their home.
“It was sad, really sad,” Wade said. “All they (the Grahams) had was each other. You’re not ready to lose your spouse. He (Carlos Graham) was worried about that.”
Danette Graham found out about her in-laws on the afternoon of Sept. 16 when an officer showed up at her home to give her the news.
“I totally fell apart, just like anyone else would,” she said. “They were a stable rock for me. I used to get advice from them. So I was totally devastated.”
Asked how she was holding up, Danette Graham said, “One minute at a time.”