LONG BEACH - A normally peaceful retirement community was devastated on Wednesday when a woman allegedly shot her 79-year-old husband to death and then called police to confess.
Neighbors identified them as Sheila and Willard Faughnder, a married couple who had lived for more than 20 years in the Belmont Shores Mobile Estates retirement park at 6230 Marina View Drive in East Long Beach.
Sheila, who was described as reclusive, would only leave the house once a week to go to the shooting range, said neighbor Roy Baufield. He said Sheila had been going to target practice for years.
"She was a very good shot, very intelligent woman," said one neighbor who asked not to be identified.
Long Beach police Lt. Josef Levy said dispatchers received a call at about 8:19 a.m. from a woman in Belmont Shores Mobile Estates.
Levy said the 72-year-old woman told dispatchers she had killed her husband.
Officers responded to the home on the 6200 block of Golden Sands Drive and called for the woman to come outside. After she was detained, police went inside the home and found a man dead from a gunshot wound to the torso.
The woman was taken into custody and arrested on suspicion of murder. Authorities are investigating a motive for the shooting and have not yet released the identities of the victim or suspect.
Neighbors said Willard had possibly been dead for a few days before his wife decided to call police.
Residents in the neighborhood seemed to know and like Willard. But Sheila was rarely seen.
"I don't think anyone knew her that well," said neighbor Marge King.
Neighbors said she could sometimes be seen walking around with a large red umbrella to block out the sunlight.
According to neighbors, Sheila had a history of mental illness and would often do strange things, such as bang on neighbors' doors at 5 a.m.
"She was a strange one, and that's a shame too, because Willie was a super guy," said Baufield, who has lived in the park for 34 years.
Arnold Price, a maintenance worker in the park, said Sheila approached them at the clubhouse on Tuesday morning and asked for a key to get back into her home. Price said she told them she was locked out and had slept in her car overnight.
"She looked like she was out of her mind," he said.
When a worker walked with Sheila back to her home to unlock the door, the worker found that the door was already unlocked, Price said.
"It was very strange," he said.
Willard could been seen every day sitting on the steps of the park's clubhouse, drinking coffee. But no one had seen him since Monday, Baufield said.
Neighbor Sally Sacks was watching TV in her bedroom when she said she heard what sounded like a gunshot on Sunday or Monday night.
"The dog started making a racket," she said. "I thought, could that be a gun? But it sounded too far away."
`Fighting for years'
The couple had a volatile relationship and could be heard arguing, according to neighbors.
"They had been fighting for years," Baufield said. The couple did not have any children, he said.
Because of the constant fighting, Sheila lived in her own Long Beach apartment for a long period of time, Baufield said. Willard paid for both places until about three years ago, when it became too expensive for him, and she moved back to the mobile home, he said.
Willard worked as a gate guard in the park for many years and was always out in the neighborhood.
"Willie was just a great guy," Baufield said. "He was always helping people out and fixing things. He was always giving out advice, even advice that you didn't need."
"You would see him sitting on the steps and he would wave," said Mona Maddox, another neighbor. "He was just the sweetest thing. Everyone liked him."
Authorities on Wednesday morning had blocked off Golden Sands Drive and were going door-to-door questioning people.
Neighbors gathered near the crime scene and talked to one another about the shooting.
Baufield, who was friends with Willard for more than 20 years, seemed to take it the hardest. The two would often spend hours sitting on the steps of the clubhouse together talking about football.
"I guess she shot him. That's what it looks like," he said, as tears filled his eyes. "Damn her."
Anyone with more information is urged to contact Homicide Detectives Scott Lasch or Malcolm Evans at 562-570-7244.