Man, 81, Kills Wife, Son, Self

By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An 81-year-old man shot and killed his wife and middle-aged son yesterday in their Fairfax County home before fatally shooting himself in what police described as an apparent double murder-suicide and "a family tragedy."

The bodies of Thomas K. Appleberry, his wife, Rachel, 81, and son, Thomas Jr., 53, were discovered in their home on Cinnamon Creek Drive, north of Vienna, after police received a call at 9:22 a.m. from the couple's daughter.

Residents of the Cinnamon Creek subdivision said the elder Thomas Appleberry -- known to residents as "Mr. Appleberry" -- was a friendly neighbor who loved to walk his dog in the morning.

Linda Daneshzadeh of Palmdale, Calif., a close friend and former neighbor who said she maintained weekly contact with him, said life inside the family's home had been a "living hell" for some time.

She said Appleberry's son, known as Tommy, lived with his parents, had a history of problems with drugs and alcohol and could not hold a job, all of which caused tension in the family. Appleberry's wife sided with her son, and the family grew bitterly divided over the years, Daneshzadeh said.

Daneshzadeh said that sometime in the past two months, Appleberry, a former CIA employee and a gun enthusiast, told her that during an argument, his son had pushed him and threatened his life.

"I told him he needed to get out of there," Daneshzadeh said. "He said he couldn't leave Rachel behind. . . . He is a kind man. He has a wonderful heart. He is a dedicated family man. . . . I guess when you're . . . at the end of your rope. . . . He may have just snapped."

Daneshzadeh said a relative of Appleberry's told her that he was found dead in a chair holding a gun and that his wife and son were found in a bedroom.

Police did not comment on the position or location of the bodies or on a possible motive for the shootings. Police characterized the incident as an apparent double murder and suicide.

"Preliminarily, it appears this is a family tragedy, and that's how we're investigating it," police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said. "While we realize it's unsettling to the neighborhood, it's important to remember that it does appear isolated."

Although the three Appleberrys were shot, autopsies are pending to determine the exact causes of death, police said. The incident follows a triple homicide last month in which three men were fatally stabbed in the county's Ravensworth Farm neighborhood. If the medical examiner rules the deaths of Appleberry's wife and son to be homicides, the slayings would bring the county's total to 20 this year, said Officer Don Gotthardt, a police spokesman.

Appleberry's dog was found alive inside the home, police said.

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