Fire Investigation Reveals ‘Mercy Killing’ Near Libby

By Beacon Staff

An investigation into a house fire in northwestern Montana took a grisly turn when authorities discovered the elderly couple living there were involved in a murder-suicide that police say was meant to be a mercy killing.

Authorities originally believed that Ted and Swanie Hardgrove, both 81, died in the Saturday morning fire that burned down their home in a rural area of Lincoln County north of Libby, where they had been longtime residents.

The bodies were taken to the state crime lab, where it was discovered that both Hardgroves had single gunshot wounds to their heads, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Capt. Roby Bowe said Wednesday.

Amid the charred wreckage, a gun was discovered near Ted Hardgrove’s body and a letter in which he explained his actions.

Authorities concluded that Ted Hardgrove shot his wife, set fire to the house and then shot himself, Bowe said.

“It was more an act of despair out of love. They both had medical issues. She was in a huge amount of pain,” Bowe said. “He could not take it anymore. He could not see her in that amount of pain anymore.”

Swanie Hardgrove had cerebral palsy and her suffering had grown intense in the days leading up to the shooting, Bowe said. She had been in and out of hospitals for some time and her treatment was not easing the pain.

Ted Hardgrove also had medical issues, although Bowe declined to elaborate.

It also is not clear why he started the blaze.

Before the shootings and the fire, Ted Hardgrove removed flammable objects and ammunition from the home, steps that Bowe said were meant to ensure no harm to whoever responded to the blaze.

Nobody else was involved in planning or carrying out the murder-suicide, Bowe said, and authorities planned to close the investigation once fire officials completed their work.

The Hardgroves have family in the area who had been checking in on them, but they were not around at the time of the shootings, Bowe said.

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