Couple Received Government Benefits of Up To $36,000
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ A couple who apparently killed themselves and the woman’s three children to protest the government’s treatment of veterans received at least $29,000 in annual federal benefits, officials said.
″I would not say they were hurting financially,″ Robert Tomlinson, district manager at the Social Security office in Littleton, said Friday. ″It really doesn’t make any sense.″
Bodies believed to be those of Michael Dean, 43, a disabled Vietnam veteran, his girlfriend, Caroline Hull, 32, and her three young children were found Tuesday in the charred ruins of her home.
Four of the five died of gunshot wounds, while a fifth died of smoke inhalation and gunshot wounds, authorities said Friday.
The couple are said to have wrote at least six letters claiming they were carrying out the slayings because they were tired of struggling with the government over veterans’ benefits.
″We only asked that this government love us as much as the men and women who fought for our government’s freedom,″ a letter to WMUR-TV in Manchester said. ″But instead each year at budget time our government and lawmakers take bits and pieces of our so much deserved benefits.
″So I protected myself and my children before we lost everything or they took it away,″ the letter said.
But Social Security and Veteran Administration officials say the couple may have had an annual income of at least $29,000 and as much as $36,000.
Hull, widow of a Vietnam veteran who died in 1983 of an apparent overdose, received $723 a month in veterans’ benefits, and Dean $617 a month, said William Harrell, assistant director of veterans’ services in White River Junction, Vt.
Hull received monthly Social Security benefits of between $700 and $1,000, and Dean between $400 and $700, said Tomlinson.
The letters, whose authenticity have not been verified, were sent to family members, two news organizations, local Veterans Administration and Social Security Administration offices and an office of Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H.
Also, aides to New Hampshire’s four congressman and two Vermont congressmen said that since 1982, Dean had written more than a dozen letters arguing that disabled Vietnam veterans were being treated unfairly.
″The letters tended to reflect a deep concern and preoccupation with the Vietnam war,″ said Rudman aide Paul Jacobson. ″Anyone reading the letters would easily see that the person writing them was having problems psychologically and mentally.″
According to the letters, Dean and Hull drugged Hull’s three young children with sleeping pills. Dean then shot the children and Hull and set their house on fire late Monday or early Tuesday before shooting himself.
Four of the victims died from multiple gunshot wounds, not drug overdoses, according to a preliminary autopsy report.
Three - believed to be Hull and two of her children - were shot more than once in the heart, Assistant Attorney General David Plourde said.
″Preliminary indications show all died of gunshot wounds except the oldest of the two boys who apparently died as a result of the combination of the gunshot wounds and smoke inhalation,″ Plourde said.
He said dental records will be needed to identify the five charred bodies removed from the cellar of the burned-out house.
But authorities say the bodies are most probably those of Dean, Hull and her children, Theresa, 4, Jeremia, 6 and Kenneth, 11.