Murder-suicide of elderly couple reveals touching love story

Murder-suicide reveals touching love story

SHAFTER, Calif. - Circumstances surrounding the murder-suicide of an elderly couple in Shafter reveal a touching love story.

"Johnie and Claudine are perhaps one of the most loving couples I have ever met in my life," said their church pastor Mike Polley.

Whether out at events or at home, Johnie and Claudine Saulsbury were always side by side, unable to go without at least slightly touching each other.

Neighbors and the couple's pastor say every afternoon they would walk hand in hand around the neighborhood.

"They told me it was because they had to hold each other up and I saw the look in their eyes and they just needed to be together. They loved each other desperately," said Polley.

So desperately that Johnnie said he wanted them to die together.

And they did.

Thursday morning, a relative went to check on Johnie and Claudine at their home in Shafter and found them dead inside.

Shafter police say Johnie had stabbed Claudine to death and then hanged himself in the garage.

One day before they were scheduled to move to an assisted living facility.
"He didn't want to move away from here. He decided he didn't want to move into Bakersfield," said a neighbor who did not to be identified.

Friends and family say for the past 50 years, the couple had lived in that Shafter home and raised three children there.

They were active in the community, especially at Valley Bible church.

The neighbor said Claudine was more willing to move than Johnie.

"[Claudine] said [to me] 'I won't even have to cook in there unless I want to'," said the neighbor.

She said the couple were in poor health and Johnie was taking medication.

"I'm sure without him taking that medicine that he would not have done this. There's no way. He must've snapped," said the neighbor.

Everyone 23 ABC spoke to are shocked, saying they will miss the couple who loved their community and even  more so,  each other.

"Johnnie and Claudine are pillars in this community...and they have had a great impact on their family and friends and all the people in their neighborhood," said Polley.

Johnie and Claudine Saulsbury would have celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary this month.

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