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Officials Checking Leads in Possible Suicide Call to Radio Show

June 9, 1987

MONROE, Mich. (AP) _ Authorities on Tuesday investigated a suicide threat and a gunshot sound that was broadcast nationally on a radio talk show, but they had not determined if the call was authentic.

″They are following up a few leads, but there’s nothing definite at all,″ said the spokeswoman in the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department Special Investigations Unit. She declined to give her name or to elaborate.

Jim VanBuskirk, board president of the Monroe County Farm Bureau, said he suspected the call early Tuesday to ″The Larry King Show″ in Washington was a hoax.

The caller said he was from Monroe, had lost his farm, his wife had died and he ″wanted to be the first person to commit suicide″ on the program, said the show’s technical producer, Chris Castleberry.

″And at that point we heard what sounded like a gunshot,″ Castleberry said.

″As far as I’m concerned it’s probably a prank,″ said VanBuskirk. ″There’s not that many farms going under.

″They (investigators) could nail it down pretty close ...,″ he said. ″I haven’t heard of anybody who would do anything like that. I just hope that’s the case.″

Pat Piper, the show’s producer, said police are trying to cross-check men who’ve recently lost their farm and whose wife has died.

″Everyone’s hoping it’s a hoax, that the guy was putting everyone on. I sort of have the feeling that it was. ...″ he said. ″They were almost too well organized, ’He said, Hello Larry. I’ve lost my farm. I’ve lost my wife. Boom 3/8‴

Castleberry said the call came in at 1:24 a.m. EDT.

″All I do is pick up the phone and ask them what town they’re calling from. We don’t ask their names,″ he said.

″It was real brief. All he said was, ‘I lost my farm about a week ago’ and ‘It was in the family for generations’ and he lost his wife about a month ago. Larry had said, ‘That’s too bad,’ and he said, ’I want to be the first person to commit suicide on your show.‴ Then came the sound of the shot.

King said he had received some suicide threats on his show, but never one that ended the way this one did.

″I’ve never had a call like that in 30 years,″ he said. ″But it sounded like a gunshot and the guy sounded truly despondent.″

King said it appeared that the phone was hung up on the other end after the abrupt sound.

″I think they hung up on us,″ he said. ″It was the sound of a real gun. The only thing is, I didn’t hear him fall. He could have been in bed, but I didn’t hear anything″ after the shot.

Piper said the show has a five-second delay, but didn’t screen the shot.

″What happened was it happened too fast,″ he said. ″Everyone just sort of looked at each other.″

Piper said the show does very little screening of callers.

″It’s so spontaneous. It’s so live. We don’t do a lot of screening. When you do that, 99 percent of the time, you’re going to be fine,″ he said.

″But every once in a while some yahoo is going to pull something like this,″ said Piper. ″I say yahoo because I really think that the person is at their job giggling about this.″