An Oley Township couple died in an apparent murder-suicide outside their home in Oley Township on Tuesday. Police identified the victims as Stefan and Joy Strunk, both 62 years old.
Firefighters first responded around 3:15 a.m. Tuesday for the report of smoke in the area, officials said. A short time later, they were dispatched to a fully-involved house fire on Creeks Edge Road.
When crews arrived, they found Stefan Strunk, who motioned to his wife's body nearby, according to Chief Ray Serafin, Central Berks Regional Police Department.
"He was waiting on the edge of this roadway when fire personnel arrived," Serafin said. "The first fire company personnel arrived. He asked for the direction of where the person was laying in the driveway... He indicated to him by nodding, in other words, pointing down the lane."
The responding firefighter found Joy Strunk was already dead of a gunshot wound, Serafin said.
"And when doing so, [the firefighter] heard the pop of another gun...he saw a gentleman fall over," Serafin said, adding that Stefan Strunk shot himself in the driveway.0
Detectives said based on their interviews with family and friends, there was likely emotional abuse and control issues between the couple. Police said friends of Joy Strunk had told her she should leave her husband.
Police said Stefan Strunk left behind suicide notes, though the notes don't really explain why he did it.
"We believe that the husband killed the wife with a handgun, and that he ended his own life with a handgun," Serafin said.
Authorities said it appeared Stefan Strunk set fire to the house with a propane torch, but it's unclear whether that was before or after he shot his wife.
"We don't know that. We don't know that yet," Serafin said. "I don't know if we will ever know that."
Despite the tragic outcome, police said the ordeal could have ended even worse than it did.
"When you sit back and you play Monday morning quarterback, you think what could have happened to the firefighter that was pulling up there," Serafin said. "I mean, what if his thought process could have been something else. That was my initial concern, like, 'Wow, you really were in harm's way and didn't even realize it.'"