Petaluma woman who died in murder-suicide reported husband’s erratic behavior to police 6 months ago

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The Petaluma woman who died last week with her husband in an apparent murder-suicide had called Petaluma police in October to report her husband’s threats to harm her and himself, according to authorities and a longtime friend of the couple.

As a result of her report, police said Monday he was taken from the couple’s Echo Court home for questioning but not arrested.

A family member and neighbors have confirmed the two dead are Patricia Stewart, 75, and her husband Richard Stewart, 76.

Because of the sensitive nature of the ongoing murder-suicide investigation, Petaluma Police Sgt. Paul Gilman said only that the woman had called police six months ago because she was concerned about the welfare of her husband, but the officer would not provide further information about the matter.

Gilman also declined to say if police had removed firearms from the home at that time.

“We are not yet in a position to disclose potential crimes that may have been associated, including domestic violence,” Gilman said of the October call.

On Thursday at about 4 p.m., police were dispatched to the Stewarts’ house after receiving a call from relatives who found the couple dead in their home. Each had multiple gunshot wounds, police said. Gilman declined to disclose further details from the ongoing police investigation of last week’s crime and wouldn’t confirm the identities of the two dead people until the coroner’s office on Tuesday conducts autopsies and makes positive identifications of the bodies.

Jessica Leach, a granddaughter of the Stewarts who lived with them from 2012 to 2015 while attending Santa Rosa Junior College, said Monday her grandfather Richard recently was diagnosed with dementia. However, she said her family saw no reason for concern because his condition seemed manageable.

“It was very simple stuff, just like more forgetting to take the trash out or forgetting where he put the TV remote,” Leach said. “But he always knew who everyone was and what he was doing.”

She called her grandparents her best friends and said she was extremely close to them.

“They were always there taking care of not just me, but my whole family, and we went to them for everything and anything,” Leach said.

She and other family members declined to discuss last week’s murder-suicide or what transpired in October that led Patricia Stewart to report her husband’s erratic behavior to Petaluma police.

Deanna Rice, a neighbor and friend of the Stewarts for 30 years, recalled the October 2018 night when she saw police officers arrive at the couple’s home.

The following day Rice saw Patricia Stewart sitting in her driveway soaking up the sun and went over to talk with her.

“Patricia told me that she called the cops to apparently have him (Richard) arrested and that he flipped out,” Rice said. “But she did not say anything more.”

Rice said she will remember the Stewarts as kind, family-oriented people, and that they will be missed.

“They were really nice people, kept to themselves, but I also know he was just not all there in his head before this happened,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Alexandria Bordas at 707-521-5337 or alexandria.bordas@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @CrossingBordas.

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