Argos woman's family says police aren't to blame for shooting
By WSBT News1
Story Created: Aug 11, 2008 at 10:53 PM EDT
Story Updated: Aug 11, 2008 at 11:40 PM EDT
ARGOS A Marshall County sheriff's deputy stopped to check on Jeromy Bostwick's welfare less than two hours before he allegedly shot his wife, then turned the gun on himself. A friend told police Bostwick might be suicidal, and asked them to stop by his Argos area home.
Police say Bostwick, 32, shot his wife Erica Liechty-Bostwick, 24, once in the back and once in the face at the couple's home in the 15000 block of Michigan Road, just North of Argos, around 8:30 p.m. Sunday.
Liechty-Bostwick remained in critical condition at Memorial Hospital in South Bend Monday night, after undergoing several hours of surgery to remove a bullet that had shattered her jaw and lodged behind her left eye.
For her grandfather, Ronald Liechty, it was a moment he'd been dreading.
"We knew it," he said, when asked about his initial reaction to hearing that his granddaughter had been shot. "There had been difficulties. We had helped. Her parents had helped. We tried to find a way for counseling, professional help to be offered. And it just didn't take."
What took instead were growing fears from Erica's family.
"Several weeks ago he threatened suicide with a gun. We knew there was a gun. We knew there was the possibility of violence," said Ronald.
But he says Erica didn't buy it.
"Erica was certain that Jeromy had no intent and no history and no will to hurt her. She was convinced of that," he said.
On Sunday night that changed.
"He shot me. He shot me!" she screamed to a Marshall County 911 dispatcher. "I can't feel my legs or anything. Please help me!"
Police say Bostwick shot his wife in the back and face, then turned the gun on himself. Officers weren't sure if he was still alive and armed as they responded to try and help Erica.
"I heard the shot, and I haven't heard anything else," she told the dispatcher, between sobs. "I think he's dead. Otherwise, he would've come out and shot me when I called the police."
Click on the link in the Related Content box to hear the entire 911 call.
For more than 11 minutes, Liechty-Bostwick stayed on the line with the dispatcher, pleading for help.
"I lost part of my tongue," she said. "It hurts more and more. I'm so scared. I don't want to die like this. I don't want to die like this," she repeated.
It was the nightmare family and friends had had for months.
"Jeromy had been treated for depression," said Ronald. "And like many people treated for depression, they do not like the medication. They take it some of the time and they don't take it some of the time. We had warned her that a person in depression, who felt they could not control anything any longer, would sometimes go to extremes."
And it wasn't just family members who witnessed the change in his behavior.
"He had some mood changes," said Don O'Dell, shop foreman at Vanado Signs, where Jeromy worked for more than 12 years before abruptly quitting 18 months ago. "He said he needed a change. Normally, he was up and going. He was a pretty good kid. But when he'd get depressed, he'd kind of stay to himself a little bit."
Police say he was by himself when they went to check on him just before 6:45 Sunday night.
Several of Bostwick's friends called over a three hour time span, asking police to check on Bostwick, because they believed him to be suicidal. An officer was dispatched, and called for backup while speaking with Bostwick.
But when the backup officers arrived, the officer said they weren't needed.
"He spoke with the subject. He was there in the house by himself. He found that there were no suicidal tendencies, that he was in a very good mood, very cordial, very talkative. The officer felt no further action needed to be taken," said Marshall County Detective Sergeant Duane Culp.
At some point following that welfare check, Det. Sgt. Culp says Erica arrived at the home, though it's unclear whether she was called there, or went on her own.
What is clear, is that Jeromy was unhappy with the direction their marriage was heading.
"She had filed for divorce early last month, and he and Erica had been separated for a month. She and the children were living in another location," said Ronald.
The couple has a 4-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl, and Ronald says the family was convinced it was safer with the two living apart. Neither child was at the home at the time of the shooting.
"We felt she was at risk and the children would be at risk [if they were still there]," he said.
Still, Ronald doesn't blame the police.
When asked if the police should've taken a closer look at Bostwick, or if there might have been signs of his intentions Sunday night, Ronald replied "Probably not. Probably not."
His focus now is on building a future for his great-grandchildren.
"They're staying with us now, we're taking them to daycare. They're asking the questions of, 'Where's Mommy?'" he said. "We're telling them that Mommy was in an accident and the doctors are making her feel better."
Ronald also hopes there's a positive message that stems from this tragedy for others who feel they've run out of options.
"It's not a blow to one's ego to ask for, and receive help," he said.
Ronald says Jeromy did take that help last month by voluntarily checking himself in to The Bowen Mental Health Center. He then checked himself out after less than three days.
An autopsy Monday afternoon in Fort Wayne confirmed Bostwick died of a single gunshot wound, but toxicology tests could take several weeks.
Det. Sgt. Culp says the officer's actions at Bostwick's home before the shooting are under review, but it's likely the matter will be closed with no further action taken.
"I believe it's going to be closed," he said. "If there was something there at the beginning, the officer would've taken appropriate action on it."