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Wife Copies Husband’s Suicide

January 6, 1998

DARLINGTON, Wis. (AP) _ A woman whose husband committed suicide amid charges that he tried to kill her by putting pond water into her hospital intravenous tube killed herself _ the same way her husband died, in the same garage.

Donna Stauffacher, 48, died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a suicide ``similar to what her husband had done,″ Lafayette County Coroner Rudy Gebhardt said Monday after an autopsy.

``There was a note, just personal stuff to her kids,″ he said. ``It’s really unbelievable, actually _ a real terrible tragedy for this family.″

Mrs. Stauffacher was found dead last weekend inside the garage where her husband’s body was found less than four months ago. The same vehicle produced the carbon monoxide that killed both.

John ``Jack″ Stauffacher Jr., 52, was found dead Sept. 17, two days after being freed from jail on bond. He had been charged with attempted homicide for allegedly tainting the fluids his wife was receiving in her bed at Meriter Hospital in Madison.

The criminal complaint said Mrs. Stauffacher nearly died of infections after going to the hospital Aug. 7 for a routine surgery that wouldn’t normally require a hospital stay.

Hospital staff told police that she had a huge dose of bacteria in her blood _ the kind found in lakes and ponds _ and that her husband was seen with a duffel bag containing four syringes.

The family said it didn’t believe the accusations. A prosecutor suggested that Stauffacher’s $2 million in debts may have provided a potential motive, but his son said his father’s farm had more assets than debts.

Mrs. Stauffacher had been rehabilitated and talked of returning to work as a schoolteacher. Still, she had been despondent at times, Gebhardt said. According to a relative, he said, Mrs. Stauffacher said ``she wanted to be with Jack.″

``I kind of thought everything would settle down after Jack, but I guess not,″ Gebhardt said. ``I guess the whole thing was just too much for her to handle.″

The case has shaken this central Wisconsin town of 2,300 people, where Stauffacher ran a 1,500-acre dairy farm, one of the largest in the area.

``Fortunately, we don’t deal with this kind of stuff,″ Gebhardt said. ``It’s really something when something like this happens in our little area. Most of us die of old age.″

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