There would be no happy ending.
Even as Paul was giving his interview, police were fishing evidence out of the San Francisco Bay. Later that day, they said the discovery of a woman’s torso could be linked to the woman’s disappearance.
On Tuesday night, a tow-truck driver responding to an abandoned car on the Bay Bridge spotted someone sitting on the railing.
It was Paul Titchener.
Paul’s suicide put a sudden end to a strange San Francisco-area mystery. Although police have not said that the severed torso belongs to Shelly (“While we cannot confirm the body found is that of Shelly Titchener, we also cannot rule it out,” the Brisbane Police Department said in a statement), the couple’s son posted a message to Facebook on Wednesday night confirming that both of his parents were dead.
Paul had been a person of interest, not a suspect, in his wife’s disappearance. Now police are investigating whether his suicide is a sign of his remorse or a product of his depression over losing his wife of more than 20 years.
The double death has shaken the quiet neighborhood where the Titcheners lived and has opened their family life to outside scrutiny.
“I think that they … didn’t have a great relationship, but a lot of people don’t have great relationships,” neighbor Dee Dee Porter told KRON4. “It’s disconcerting in that it’s a small town and we’ve always really taken a lot of pride in it being a safe town, and it’s just unnerving to have something like this happen.”
Shelly Titchener was a vivacious hair stylist with an ever-changing assortment of pixie cuts. Her husband was a somber, silver-haired brainiac with a graduate degree from Stanford University.
She posted photos of her posing with Vidal Sassoon products or taking their sons to an Oakland Raiders game on Facebook. He wrote on his company’s website that he held “several patents in the areas of signal processing and electronic instrumentation and has published and presented a variety of technical papers on advanced applications of electronic hardware and software systems.”
They were an odd couple and had reportedly experienced marital trouble in the past. Neighbors said he had moved out for a while, but he returned, according to ABC7.
Whatever their life together was like, it shattered the day before Valentine’s Day.
That evening, the couple got into an argument, Paul told KRON4. Shelly said she was going to go see a friend, leaving the house without her car, cellphone, laptop, medicine or much money, according to Paul, who added that his wife had a history of bipolar disorder and depression.
“She was a little upset at the time,” he said.
When she hadn’t returned home two days later, Paul called the police.
As with most missing adults, police weren’t overly concerned at first. They considered her “voluntarily missing.”
After two more days, however, her sons began to get worried. They started a Facebook page called “Find Shelly Titchener” and urged anyone who had seen her to speak up.
A neighbor said she had seen Shelly on Monday, the day after Valentine’s Day, and the two had chatted about flowers. Another person claimed to have seen her shopping at Nordstrom the same day.
Then there came a week of silence.
Finally, on Monday, Paul and one of his sons started putting up missing posters around their neighborhood. Paul said that it was his son leading the search effort.
“I think he recognized that I wasn’t in the shape to try what we needed to do,” he told KRON4.
Neighbors said Paul seemed genuinely worried about his wife.
“The husband came up to our house and asked us if we’ve seen her or anything,” Phil Tandecki told ABC7. “He was kind of broke down about it.”
But police had already made a startling discovery. On Sunday evening, hours before Paul and his son put up missing posters, fishermen had spotted something pale and white beached on a pier near the Dumbarton Bridge, about 30 miles south of the Titcheners’ home in Brisbane.
It was a woman’s torso. The head and limbs had been purposefully severed, police said.
For the next two days, authorities searched the marshy area where the torso was found. On Tuesday, they discovered other body parts and evidence connecting the torso to the Titchener case, according to the San Jose Mercury News and NBC Bay Area.
Shortly after that discovery, Paul Titchener drove his car north to the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Just after sunset, he jumped off the bridge to his death, according to police.
He left behind two sons and his strange interview, filmed just hours earlier.
On Wednesday, the journalist who spoke to him remarked on the eerie interview.
“There were two things that struck me as odd about our interview,” KRON4’s Justine Waldman said on air. “One, he did not cry and he also was not wearing his wedding ring.”
In hindsight, the interview might contain a hint of his suicidal intention.
“What happens if she doesn’t come home?” Waldman asked Paul Titchener.
“Well, you know that’s going to be very difficult,” he said. “I’m trying to arm my sons for that.”
But then he shifted to talking about losing both parents.
“I’ve lost both my parents and that’s a very difficult thing, so I’ve gone through that experience with them and shared it with them how that that feels and what you do to deal with it,” he continued.
“It’s difficult but I think they hopefully won’t have to have that experience, but I’ve kind of explained to them that it’s part of life,” he said. “Everyone eventually has to face that.”
In the interview, Paul had said he missed his wife “tremendously.”
After his suicide, however, his brother-in-law said he was suspicious of Paul.
“Made me think that maybe he was holding back information,” Scott Carmichael told ABC7.
Carmichael said that until police officially identify the torso as his sister’s, he remained hopeful that Shelly was still alive.
“As the days go by,” he admitted, “I’m less and less.”