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The Peoria Journal Star ( IL)
March 29, 1996
Author: CORI FAKLARIS
BLOOMINGTON — The shooting deaths of Judith C. Piper and her father-in-law were a murder-suicide, a McLean County coroner’s jury ruled Thursday. After a 45-minute deliberation, the jury also recommended that police study further the influence of anti-depressants on the gunman, Irving “Russell” Piper, said McLean County Coroner Dan Brady.
The elder Piper killed the Towanda mother of three around noon Feb. 22 as she sat in her car in a parking lot at 1328 E. Empire St., across from Eastland Shopping Center in Bloomington. After shooting Judith Piper, he then turned the gun on himself. He died later that day in St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Police testified that notes in the elder Piper’s pocket indicated he felt distraught and angry about Judith Piper’s pending divorce from his son, Daniel, Brady said. Russell Piper wrote that Judith was “driving Dan wild,” and that because of her, Daniel was “losing his pension, his house, and everything,” according to Brady. He also wrote that he was having trouble with his physical disability — spasmodic torticollis, a degeneration of the neck muscles — in that he was losing weight and felt the medication was wrong, Brady said.
That muscle condition had forced Piper to leave his job as an Illinois State Police officer in 1976. Doctors at the University of Iowa who helped treat Piper said his condition was painful, and that the anti-depressants helped treat the pain and were to boost his spirits, Brady said. However, “the physicians indicated that at no time did Russell Piper (appear to be) having behavior problems” while in treatment, Brady said.
According to the coroner’s office, on the day of the shootings Judith Piper never indicated she and her father-in-law were in conflict. Judith and Daniel Piper, along with a sign-language interpreter for the deaf couple, had met with a child custody mediator at 9 a.m. that day. During the divorce suit, Judith had been granted temporary custody of the children and was living at the couple’s home in Towanda.
Daniel Piper left the custody meeting to retrieve his checkbook from his father’s apartment at 1717 King Drive in Normal, where he was living at the time, and returned at 9:45 a.m., according to the coroner’s office.
After the two left the meeting in separate cars around 10:10 a.m., Judith Piper then drove to the Life-Cil living center for the disabled, which is located at the Empire Street address. She had made no mention of her father-in-law all morning, according to the coroner’s office. Sometime shortly after she left a meeting there at about 11:45 p.m., she returned to her car and was shot.
Record Number: 0000197611