The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

February 27, 2007

2 die in ‘murder-suicide’

A couple that Rogers Street neighbors describe as “quiet and friendly” were found shot to death early Tuesday.

Police are calling it a “murder-suicide” that killed Billy Wayne Putman and Rhonda West.

Police Capt. Marty Bruce said that Putman, 64, was found lying in his bed shot in the temple while West, 57, was found lying on the kitchen floor dead from a gunshot wound to the head and a .38-caliber handgun clutched in her hand.

A neighbor across the street from the Putman residence, Leon Brooks, said the first time he knew there was a problem was when his “little old dog went to raising Cain.”

“I just came to the door to see what was going on and I saw all these police cars in the street,” Brooks said.

Brooks said he didn’t see a lot of Putman and West except when they were coming home or leaving for work. According to his cousin, Bob Putman, Putman worked for Watkins Oil Co. “checking pumps” and changing signs when the price went down. West was a respiratory therapist at Athens-Limestone Hospital.

“They were just a quiet couple,” Brooks said. “He’d say, ‘I’m ready for spring to come, I’m ready to plant some ’maters, aren’t you?’”

West’s boss, Andy Jackson, director of Athens-Limestone Hospital Therapy Services, is also an assistant coroner. He responded to the call along with Coroner Mike West, who is not related to Rhonda West.

Jackson said the dead woman had worked for him for more than 20 years in respiratory therapy. “I guess she started back in 1981 or 82,” he said. During that time, West, who worked the night shift, had never talked about any relationship problems, Jackson said. He said she had not worked Monday night, but had worked Sunday night, checking out of the hospital at about 7 a.m. Monday.

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