Neighbors Left 'In A State Of Shock' After Couple's Murder-Suicide
Neighbors in the private community say they will hold a vigil for the couple Saturday
Several hours after emergency responders, police and SWAT units stormed a private, affluent community off of Route 202 to respond to a murder suicide Friday morning, neighbors were left wondering what really happened.
Friday night, a bouquet of six pink roses were left by an anonymous griever under the mailbox of 30 Polo Lane, where earlier in the day police say resident Harry Ellis, 82, shot and killed his 79-year-old wife, Barbara, and then himself. The neighborhood was left quiet, except for confused neighbors exchanging hushed conversations and phone calls.
“We are thinking of holding some sort of vigil [Saturday] night, just to do something,” Steve Wagner, who lives with his wife, Marge Henry, two houses down from the Ellis’s on Polo Lane. “We are all in a state of shock.”
Wagner said he and his wife have known the couple since they moved in to their home 14 years ago. “The [Ellis’s] were here several years before us; they were the first ones to move in on this street.”
Wagner said there “is no reason” why Harry Ellis would have, according to authorities, shot his wife in the head after 8 a.m. Friday morning in their home, then shot himself outside. Both were transported to Good Samaritan Hospital, where they were pronounced dead at about 10:40 a.m. Friday, police said.
“I am sure that there was nothing going on in their relationship,” Wagner said. “[Barbara] was very, very committed to him. And, I know there were no financial troubles either. There just is no reason that makes sense.”
Wagner said that although Harry Ellis “suffered from Parkinson’s disease,” the two were “very happy. They were always friendly.”
“I think something just must have snapped in him,” he said.
Barbara Ellis, a retired school nurse who worked in the Fort Lee School District from 1977 to 2010, “wasn’t ill at all,” Wagner said. “She went to all of our homeowner’s association meetings. I’d always see her out – driving, running errands, doing whatever she had to do.”
Authorities have yet to release any conclusive theories as to what caused the murder-suicide.
"Whether or not his health issues contributed to this incident is unknown," Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli said. Ellis left no suicide note, and the couple had no history of domestic violence, he said.
According to Batelli, police will continue to get information from the couple's children - including a daughter who police say received a phone call from her father Friday morning saying he had killed her mother and was about to kill himself.
Authorities say they are continuing an investigation into every aspect of the incident.
Wagner said he doubts they will find an answer to help fill the confusing void the neighborhood is feeling.
“I just know we will miss them,” he said.