Fort Bragg Iraq war vet kills girlfriend, then himself

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A Fort Bragg man and his former girlfriend were found shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide that left the small town on the Mendocino coast reeling Tuesday.

Jacob Gregory Swanson, 26, a former Army paratrooper who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was haunted by his memories of combat and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, said his mother, Tracy Swanson.

Jacob Swanson apparently shot Amy Rochelle Salo, 36, and then turned the gun to his own head sometime Monday afternoon, Mendocino County Sheriff?s Lt. Rusty Noe reported Tuesday. He described their relationship as on again, off again.

Salo, the mother of three children ages 3, 10 and 12, was a personal trainer and cycling instructor at Mendocino Sport Club.

?The whole community is distraught right now,? said Dina Rogers, who worked with Salo. ?Everybody knew her.?

Noe said the motive for the shooting is unknown.

But Swanson?s mother blames the post-traumatic stress disorder she said her son suffered as a result of serving under heavy combat conditions in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

?This is not my Jake. Jake would never do this,? said Tracy Swanson, distraught and sobbing.

Post-traumatic stress disorder has been linked to murders, suicides and other aberrant behavior nationwide.

Swanson said she has lost both her son and her best friend.

?I loved Amy. She was like family to me,? Swanson said. ?I?m just dying for those children.?

The shootings also shocked Salo?s other friends.

?It blows me away. She just started seeing a guy in Chico. She was happy,? said Kim Pollard.

The health club where Salo worked, along with a local tanning salon, were closed Tuesday to allow employees to grieve.

Pollard said she had no idea Salo was going to see Jake Swanson on Monday because they?d split several months ago.

Salo picked Swanson up for lunch at noon at Swanson Grading Paving & Rock Co., a family-owned business where he worked, law officials said.

Family and coworkers at the business were surprised to see Salo because the couple had broken up, said Sheriff?s Lt. Dennis Bushnell.

But they said they saw the two kissing Monday morning and then Salo picked him up for lunch at noon, Tracy Swanson said.

?Everybody said he was in a good mood at work. He was fine when I talked to him Sunday night,? she said.

But something apparently went terribly wrong at Jake Swanson?s rented duplex on rural Airport Road north of Fort Bragg.

When he failed to return from lunch by 2:30 p.m., a family member went to check on him. The relative had difficulty locating the home and did not arrive until 5 p.m., Noe said.

Swanson was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head in his living room. A handgun was found near his body, Noe said. Investigators found Salo dead of a gunshot wound to the face in the bathroom of the duplex, Noe said.

Noe said the motive of the shooting remains under investigation and an autopsy is pending.

Both Swanson and Salo were born and raised in Fort Bragg.

Swanson graduated from Fort Bragg High School in June 2001 and joined the U.S. Army that July, his mother said.

He was stationed in Vicenza, Italy with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, she said. In March 2003, he parachuted into Iraq, where he served until February 2004. That was followed by a yearlong stint in Afghanistan, Swanson said.

He returned to Fort Bragg four years after he enlisted, decorated but changed, she said.

Mendocino County Superior Court records show that he was arrested for driving under the influence and assault in 2006. The assault charge was dismissed after he successfully stayed out of trouble for a year, records show.

News Researcher Vonnie Matthews and Staff Writer Laura Norton contributed to this story.

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