The bodies of a Silver Spring couple in their sixties were found in their locked home yesterday after their 23-year-old son walked into a Florida police station and told officers he had shot them both to death, authorities reported.
The couple was identified as Dorothy and George Bechtold, of the 10200 block of Green Forest Drive. Neighbors said the husband had been a government scientist or engineer and that the wife was suffering from cancer.
The bodies were found shortly after police in Port St. Joe, Fla., told Montgomery County authorities that the couple's son, Brian A. Bechtold, came into their station and said he had shot his parents with a shotgun between five and 10 days ago.
Port St. Joe Police Chief Carl Richter said Brian Bechtold said he could not remember exactly when he shot his parents and decided to turn himself in because he felt guilty.
Brian Bechtold told police in the Florida town that "the devil made him do it," a Montgomery County police spokesman said yesterday.
The spokesman said county police officers went to the Bechtolds' two-story brick house and forced open the front door. Dorothy Bechtold was in her chair in front of the television set in the living room and had a gunshot wound in the chest area, police said.
The 63-year-old woman, who neighbors said had trouble breathing, was still connected to an oxygen tank, police said. The television set was still playing.
Police said her husband, 65, was found face down in the kitchen. He also had been shot in the chest area, they said.
About a week ago, a neighbor recalled, a visiting nurse told her that she had tried to check on Dorothy Bechtold but had been unable to get into the house.
One neighbor said that after seeing little sign of activity at the Bechtold home for days, it was assumed the family was on vacation.
Neighbors said they understood that George Bechtold may have held an advanced degree in science or engineering and had worked at the Navy's nearby Surface Weapons Center. They said he may have been retired, and none of those interviewed indicated that they knew him well.
Neighbors offered a variety of assessments of Brian Bechtold, whom they described as a former Springbrook High School student who was active in karate and devoted to two Rottweiler dogs that he frequently walked late at night.
Some said he had seemed a shy young man who "didn't talk much" and was possibly troubled, although not troublesome.
In addition to Brian, the Bechtolds had four older children, none of whom lived with the couple, according to neighbors.
Montgomery County police said last night that after the killing, Brian Bechtold "drove to Texas, where he disposed of the shotgun," which they said had been recovered.
Police said Bechtold was being held in Florida as a fugitive and proceedings would be started to have him extradited to Montgomery County.
Staff writers Erin Marcus and Kevin Sullivan contributed to this report.