Son: Financial troubles led to murder-suicide south of Steamboat
Steamboat Springs — Larry and Chris Appel had fallen on difficult financial times, a circumstance their son thinks led to their deaths Wednesday in what law enforcement officials are describing as a murder-suicide.
Routt County Sheriff’s Office investigators think Larry Appel shot his wife of 42 years before taking his own life at their rural Routt County home southwest of Steamboat Springs. Their bodies were found by family members Wednesday morning after Chris Appel did not show up to work.
“They were the greatest people in the world, and financial times just ate them up,” said Keith Appel, their 39-year-old son. “He just got put in a dark corner and didn’t see a way out.”
Keith Appel said he knew his parents had been dealing with some financial hardships but said there still were a lot of unanswered questions in the wake of their deaths. Keith Appel said he thought his father “was just confused.”
Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said the investigation is ongoing and that it is not yet clear when the shootings occurred or what led Larry Appel to shoot his wife.
“Obviously, there was some sort of sadness in the family, but we’re not sure what at this point,” Wiggins said.
He said autopsies were going to be performed to determine whether drugs or alcohol played any factor. The Sheriff’s Office was helped at the scene Wednesday by an investigator and an attorney from the Routt County District Attorney’s Office.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Rusty Prindle said it appeared there was no one else involved in the incident, so criminal charges aren’t likely.
Chris Appel was a nurse at Yampa Valley Medical Associates. She recently helped her grandson publish a book about Keith’s battle with alcoholism, a story that was featured in a March article in the Steamboat Today.
“My mom was a huge icon in this town,” Keith Appel said.
Keith said his father was retired and had worked in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
There are many Appel relatives in the Routt County area. Larry and Chris Appel had four grandchildren. Keith Appel and his brother Mike Appel, 41, each have two children.
Keith Appel said his parents were Routt County natives and had lived at the ranch since 1993 after the 1,800-acre ranch was split among Larry Appel’s siblings.
The family attended the Steamboat Christian Center church. Director of Adult Ministries Susan Alexander said the church would offer counseling to anyone in the community from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday as well as 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Friday.
Keith Appel asked for prayers from the community during a time that he described as very hard for the family.
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