- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

HETTINGER, N.D. (AP) — Norman and Yvonne Olson, just one year shy of celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, went missing one day last summer. They were found this fall weeks apart, dead in an abandoned farmhouse. Now, their friends and family members are looking for answers.

“This community is very much devastated with what happened,” said the Rev. John Mathai of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, where the Olsons attended. “But what happened is still a mystery.”

A gun and the body of Mr. Olson, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, were found Nov. 23 in the loft of an abandoned house about seven miles northwest of town. Mrs. Olson’s body had been found in the same dilapidated building Nov. 5. Both died of gunshot wounds.

Mr. Olson, 73, and Mrs. Olson, 69, disappeared from their home Aug. 14, leaving behind thawing meat, cash and credit cards. Mrs. Olson’s glasses were found on the garage floor, and their car was gone. A dining room chair was wedged under the doorknob of the front door. Their coffee pot had been left on.

The popular belief in town is that the Korean War veteran and retired house painter killed his wife of 49 years, then turned the gun on himself.

“I don’t buy it,” the priest said. “For me, it would have to be proved. I hope that this investigation has not stopped with them finding Norman’s body.”

Adams County Sheriff Eugene Molbert doesn’t have any suspects in the case. He said tests on a pistol recovered with Mr. Olson’s body and an analysis of the couple’s car could determine whether anyone else was involved in the Olsons’ deaths.

But he doubts that is the case.

“The lab tests are due in a couple of weeks,” Sheriff Molbert said. “If they come out the way I think, the case will be closed.”

Authorities have said they were not sure whether Mr. Olson’s failing health was a factor in the couple’s disappearance. Father Mathai said Mr. Olson was frustrated that he no longer could remember or do things that he once could.

An off-duty Fargo police officer who was out hunting found the couple’s car Nov. 3 in a Quonset hut. Mrs. Olson’s body was found two days later by state Bureau of Criminal Investigation officials in a crawl space under the abandoned house.

State officials have refused to comment on the case.

The home where the Olsons’ bodies were found is about 1 miles from the Quonset hut. The sheriff said the couple routinely walked around town, so the distance they could have traveled on foot to the old home was not surprising.

Mr. Olson’s body was found partially inside a barrel when a volunteer from a South Dakota search-and-rescue team brought her bloodhound back to the house.

Sheriff Molbert said dozens of law enforcement officials and others had searched the old farmhouse without finding Mr. Olson. He said several curious residents and reporters also had inspected the house.

The sheriff said he has apologized to the Olsons’ family for not finding the bodies at the same time. Family members have said they do not blame him.

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