October 6th, 2010 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Cops and Courts

Manzanita PD: Case is 'Closed' on Deaths of Portland Couple

Police say they're closing the case on a crime that shocked residents from Portland to the Oregon Coast.

Reports of the gunshot deaths of Richard Hunter and Astrid Schlaps in their Manzanita home last month left some friends of the couple doubting the official explanation that the killings were a murder-suicide by Hunter. Cops in the small Tillamook County town said they were keeping the case open and looking at all possibilities involving the couple, both of whom had connections to Portland State University.

But today, Manzanita Police Chief Erik Harth told WW by phone he's in the process of closing the investigation his department is leading with the help of other agencies. Authorities are still waiting to obtain some records in the case, but Harth said he's confident the case is solved.

"It is a murder-suicide, is what it comes down to," Harth says. "For that reason, I guess you could say [the case is] closed."

Hunter was director of the Child Welfare Partnership at PSU. Schlap was a former PSU instructor and retired counselor.

As reported in The Oregonian, neighbors and friends have expressed strong doubts the crime was a murder-suicide. They say the couple was close to attaining their dream of living full-time in Manzanita, where they owned an art gallery.

But Harth says details from the crime scene support the theory that Hunter shot Schlaps, then himself, in the head with a .357 handgun.

"It all comes back to what was actually there at the scene," Harth says.

The blood spatter shows Hunter was shot in the same narrow stairway where authorities found his body, Harth says. The trajectory of the wound and the lack of space, he says, make it "almost impossible" someone else could have shot Hunter in that location.

"The location of Richard's body, where the gun was found—it leaves no other question," Harth says. "He definitely shot himself at that point."

Also, Harth says investigators found the house deadbolted from the inside, not from the outside—another clue pointing to a murder-suicide.

Harth says investigators followed up on other leads. But the other possibilities were ruled out, he says.

Investigators are still waiting on cell phone and financial records to complete the investigation. That evidence could help make clear the motive and time of the deaths, he says. For now, he says, investigators can't be sure whether the deaths occurred on Aug. 31 or Sept. 1.

(Photo of Hunter and Schlap's Manzanita home courtesy of KATU)
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