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Husband charged in slaying

May 07, 2001

Husband charged in slaying



By BOB PARTLOW and KIM YAKOWSKI / Staff Writers

Brown Funeral Home's South Berkeley ChapelPhoto: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Police Sunday charged a 60-year-old Inwood man with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife Saturday evening at the funeral home where she worked part-time.

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Police said Charles Elby Welch Sr., 12 Potomac Drive, shot his wife, Sandra Sue Welch, 59, several times, then turned the gun on himself. He remained by her side, wounded, until they were discovered by a funeral home worker about 9 a.m. Sunday, police said. Police were then called to the scene where the husband was not able to move, but was still alive.

The shooting occurred in the South Berkeley Chapel of the Brown Funeral Home in Inwood, police said.

Charles Welch Sr. was taken to Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown, where he was listed in serious condition in intensive care Sunday night with a gunshot wound to his chest.

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Sandra Sue Welch died at the scene, police said.

Police said Sunday a surveillance camera with a timer positioned at the front entrance of the funeral home caught Charles Welch Sr. entering the building at 6:14 p.m. Saturday. Police said they believe the shooting occurred between 6:14 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.

Charles Welch Sr. was found lying about two to three feet from his wife's body, according to West Virginia State Police Trooper Nathan Harmon. Harmon said Welch shot himself in the lower chest.

Five rounds of a possible six were fired from .44-caliber handgun, police said. At least two hit Sandra Sue Welch in the chest and torso. One round hit Charles Welch Sr. and another was left in the gun.

There were bullet holes in the ceiling and walls of the room where she was found, police said. One round traveled the length of the entire building, police said.

Harmon said there were no signs of a struggle and police had no record of domestic problems between the two.

Police are checking with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to see whether the gun was registered. An autopsy is scheduled for today, said Berkeley County Medical Examiner David Brining.

Harmon said the shooting appeared to catch Sandra Sue Welch by surprise. He said the couple were facing each other when the husband started firing.

When police arrived, Charles Welch Sr. was conscious and able to make "a spontaneous confession to one of the deputies" about the incident, Harmon said.

"His demeanor was quite scary," Harmon said. "He was quite calm."

"He was talking like you or I."

The gun, which a Berkeley County Sheriff's deputy kicked aside, was found lying eight inches from Charles Welch Sr.'s hand

Welch is under "security surveillance" until he is released, Harmon said. Maryland State Police escorted him to the hospital from the scene and were present when a Washington County Commissioner held a bond hearing on a fugitive warrant in Welch's hospital room, police said. Welch is being held without bond, they said.

"He will be extradited from Maryland when he is able to come out of the hospital," Harmon said.

Sandra Sue Welch had been working at the funeral home part-time as a receptionist since June 2000, said her oldest of five children, Charles E. Welch Jr. Her full-time job was driving a bus for the Berkeley County, W.Va., school system, he said.

The couple had been married 42 years, said Charles Welch Jr., 40. They had separated about two months ago, he said.

Harmon did not discuss any possible motive, but said Charles Welch Sr. had written a six-page letter "describing what he was doing, what he was going to do and what he wanted after he was done."

The couple lived all their lives in Berkeley County, according to their son. His worked for more than 30 years as a machinist for the 3M plant in Middleway, W.Va., he said. The plant has changed hands and his father was working in the warehouse for Spectratech International, the son said. His mother had driven a school bus since about 1970, he said, and took the funeral home job part-time at nights.

"She was a wonderful mother and a very good person," he said. "I was very saddened. But she will be going to heaven and hopefully she's going to a better place than where she was here." He said in recent years her job as a school bus driver involved transporting handicapped children.

"She loved those kids so much and took such good care of them," he said.

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