Couple's deaths stun friends and family

No warning, no note in homicide-suicide

January 23, 2000|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Theodore Egorin was once a successful Baltimore delicatessen owner and real estate broker. But lately he appeared less able to cope with the idleness and health problems that had come with old age.

"He was 81 and had more energy than me," said his 53-year-old son, Sammy Egorin. "He had nothing to do. He would go to the country club and play bridge all day."

When Egorin last talked to his father and mother, Naomi, on Wednesday afternoon, everything seemed normal. The next day, he called to offer to shovel snow from their Pikesville townhouse. After repeatedly getting no answer, his wife went to check on them.

There, Diane Egorin found her 80-year-old mother-in-law shot to death on the bed in the master bedroom. Her husband of 55 years was in the bathroom, dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

The only handgun Theodore Egorin had ever owned was lying on the bathroom floor nearby. He purchased it less than three months ago.

Baltimore County police have ruled the incident a homicide-suicide, saying Theodore Egorin shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself.

There was no warning, his son said. No note was found.

While health problems had forced the couple to give up many things they once enjoyed, they still traveled to Atlantic City and dined out frequently. But in the last four years, Theodore Egorin seemed particularly troubled.

"He was really depressed," his son said.

The tragic incident for the Egorins has become one in a growing number of homicide-suicides involving elderly couples. Annually, there are about 1,500 such incidents nationwide, said Donna Cohen, psychiatry and behavior science professor at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. Ninety-nine percent of the time, men commit the homicide, Cohen said.

Often, they feel that changes in their health and lifestyle are unbearable. Many imagine they can no longer take care of their wives and it would be better if both died.

Officials in Baltimore County believe the killing-suicides among the elderly could become more common. With 138,000 residents over 65, the county has the state's fastest-growing senior population.

Egorin said his father spent 44 years running Lexington Market's Mary Mervis Delicatessen -- a business his mother-in-law opened in 1913. At one point, it was one of the nation's most profitable delis, the son said. In 1985, Theodore Egorin sold the business to Jim Hardesty, who started there as a stock boy in 1962.

Once he retired, Egorin worked in the real estate business he had started on the side in the 1950s with a friend. He played tennis frequently. His wife, suffering from knee problems and a broken hip, continued her volunteer work.

They sent cards and flowers to their new neighbors, checking on other elderly on Fencepost Court in their gated townhouse community.

Four years ago, the real estate business ended when Egorin's partners outvoted him and liquidated the business. At the same time, his doctor told him he could no longer play tennis.

Yet Egorin apparently managed to hide his depression from many of his friends. Some who talked to the couple regularly said they had no clue. "I will never believe it," Hardesty said.

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