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Hospital murder-suicide termed mercy killings

Murray couple apparently had a pact to end lives

MURRAY — By almost all accounts, Kimball and Beata Jencks were very close.

The couple married shortly after World War II, possibly in their homeland of Germany, according to police. They eventually made their way to America to begin a new life and lived the final 20 years quietly in the same house in Murray.

Just after 6 p.m. Thursday, 84-year-old Kimball Jencks entered his wife's third-floor room at Cottonwood Hospital, shot her once in the head with a small-caliber handgun, and then took his own life with a single shot.

"She had said (in the past) that if anything happened to her, he would kill himself," neighbor Bill Plott said of their closeness.

In regard to the murder-suicide, Plott said he believed the couple "knew exactly what they were doing."

Plott said before police even revealed the names of those involved in the shooting, he knew who it was.

Investigators Thursday said the murder-suicide was a mercy killing. A note written by Beata Jencks, 81, was found that explained the pact she and her husband had made. Murray police detective Rob Hall said investigators believe she knew what her husband was doing, but he declined Thursday to reveal the exact details of the note.

Hall said the Jenckses believed their health was "diminishing rather quickly" and "their limited physical ability to take care of one another" apparently played a role in their decision.

"Mr. Jencks realized he was not able to care for his wife," Hall said.

Beata Jencks had reportedly been in the hospital for the past few days. Federal medical privacy rules forbid police or hospital officials from revealing much information about how long she had been in the hospital or for what she was being treated.

During the time she was in the hospital, Hall said her husband was a regular visitor.

Several neighbors said Beata Jencks had recently been in the hospital for hip replacement surgery. They said Kimball Jencks reportedly suffered from severe arthritis.

Neighbors said the Jenckses were intensely private people. So much so that they bought the house next door to them to give them additional privacy from other neighbors.

Some neighbors even commented that the Jenckses wouldn't have liked all the attention their tragedy was receiving or the fact news crews were in front of their house filming Thursday afternoon.

But neighbors were also quick to point out that the Jenckses weren't unfriendly, they just liked keeping to themselves.

Plott said the two would often comment about their garden while they were out working in their yard.

"They were very nice. Very quiet. They very much kept to themselves," he said.

As of Thursday evening, police had still not found any of the Jenckses' relatives to notify them of the tragedy. Hall said the couple likely did not have any relatives living in Utah and possibly not in the United States.

Beata Jencks reportedly worked at one time in sports psychology at the University of Utah, according to neighbors. But a university official said late Thursday there was no record of her ever working there.

The Utah state medical examiner and police were still wrapping up a few loose ends with the investigation Thursday. Hall said police believe only about five minutes had passed between the time the shootings took place and the bodies were discovered. No one in the hospital heard the shots.

Hall said he did not know why the intensely private couple chose such a public place to carry out their pact. He also did not know Thursday where Kimball Jencks got the gun.

There was no police record of any violent activity between the Jenckses in the past.

Crisis team members were at Cottonwood Hospital Thursday to assist staff workers or other patients who might have been affected by the tragedy.

"It's just to help anyone who needs to talk," spokesman Jess Gomez said.

For the most part, it was business as usual at the hospital Thursday, Gomez said. The room where the shootings occurred was still closed, but the rest of the hospital was open.

"The staff is doing the best they can," Gomez said. "The hospital is a place of tranquility and healing. When something happens like this, when our focus is to bring wellness, it shatters that feeling of healing. It's difficult."