OCALA.com - Florida News
Two dead in murder-suicide had advanced Lyme disease
Published: Friday, July 9, 2010 at 3:14 p.m.
OCALA – In happier times, George R. Strobo and his wife Jonalyn Maureen Strobo loved criss-crossing the country in their camper.
On Thursday, deputies found the 48-year-old man and his 49-year-old wife shot to death inside a travel trailer at the Pilot Travel Center at Interstate 75 and County Road 484.
Robert Sandlin of the Marion County Sheriff's Office said Friday that the deaths were a murder-suicide.
Sandlin said investigators recovered three guns inside the trailer -- two .357 handguns and a derringer. The derringer was wrapped inside a blanket, along with the body of the couple's beloved 14-year-old Chihuahua, Dolly. who also died from a gunshot wound.
“At this point in the investigation, the only two people involved in this case are the ones we located in the trailer,” said Sandlin.
He would not reveal whether any of the guns were used in the shooting.
Although an autopsy was conducted Friday on both victims, Sandlin declined to say where they were shot or elaborate on the fatal wounds.
He did say, however, that several handwritten notes were found near the bodies, and that the bodies were within close proximity to each other.
Peggy Strobo Haynes, 55, the sister of George Strobo, lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She spoke with the Star-Banner by phone Friday afternoon.
She said her brother and sister-in-law both were in the advanced stages of Lyme disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control website, Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans by infected ticks. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and nervous system. Most cases can be treated with a few weeks of antibiotics. Some patients, particularly those diagnosed with later stages of the disease, may have persistent or recurrent symptoms. Longer courses of antibiotics have been linked to serious complications, including death.
She said no one would treat them for the advanced stage of Lyme diseaes in Texas, so they journeyed to the Florida Keys for treatment that “involved pills and injections.”
She said the treatments they had received prior were so expensive they were forced to file bankruptcy as both were unemployed and their unemployment benefits had run out and were not extended.
George worked for a Christian camp and Jo was a manager at a title/escrow company for 30 years, she said.
Haynes said her brother talked to her about ending his life and that of his “beloved wife Jo.”
She believes their deaths were a mercy killing.
“They are in heaven,” she said, because she knows they wouldn't just “leave each other without getting right with God first.”
When asked why they were in Ocala, Haynes replied, “Who knows.”
The couple's son, Michael Strobo, 27, said in a telephone interview Friday from his home in Texas that Florida was his parents' favorite destination because of its warm weather and coastlines.
The last time he saw them was in April, when they visited him and his girlfriend in Texas before heading back to the Sunshine State.
“It's a very shocking situation. Words cannot describe how I feel,” an emotional Strobo said.
Strobo said his parents are from Texas and that they were in Florida for almost a year seeking medical attention for “an advanced disease state.”
He declined to say what the disease was.
Strobo said both sought treatment in Texas, but that was unsuccessful, so they decided to see a specialist in Florida who was willing to treat them.
He did not know where they were being treated.
He said the last time he talked to them was late last month.
Strobo said his parents had no friends or family in Ocala, and he has no idea what they were doing in the area.
He said his parents loved traveling together, and the reason they had two trucks and two trailers was because they had all their belongings with them, including Dolly.
“They loved the dog unconditionally,” he said.
Strobo said his only sibling, a brother, died at age 19 from cancer 10 years ago.
The Strobo's vehicles, a green 1998 Dodge pickup, a white 2001 Dodge pickup, a 2006 Gulf stream Cavalier travel trailer and a 2006 utility trailer, were parked at the Pilot Station around 5:30 p.m. on June 29.
Ronald Ernst told the Star-Banner on Thursday that he parked his trailer beside the vehicles at 11 a.m. on July 1. At the time, he said, he did not notice anything suspicious and left the area. He returned Thursday to pick up his empty trailer and that's when he heard the news.
Employees at the Pilot store told deputies the four vehicles had been there for 10 days. During that time, notices were placed on them stating that they were parked illegally and needed to be removed.
The store manager called the Sheriff's Office on Thursday when an employee throwing away garbage detected an awful smell.
Deputy Roderic Marques noted in his report that he knocked on the trailer door because it was locked. The windows, he said, were covered.
Underneath the trailer were two Honda generators, and beside them was a blue plastic container that had a hose in it that stretched to the trailer.
Opening a window, Marques said, the odor was strong and flies attempted to escape.
The deputy called for backup.
When officials first entered the green pickup, they found an empty gun holster, a small black travel diary and a key.
The key did not fit the trailer's lock, so, using a metal object, deputies opened the door and found the couple on the bed.
Haynes said the couple celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in May and that they met as students in Arizona. She said they loved each other deeply and were “as much in love today as they were 30 years ago.”
She said they kept in contact through e-mail and by phone and that the last time she heard from her brother was two weeks ago. They were very clsoe, even as kids, she said and he loved CB radio, fishing and hunting and was a devout Christian.
Growing up, because he had red hair and freckles, he got teased, but overcame that, said Haynes.
She said the couple got Dolly as a pup, at a yard sale. Dolly could do many tricks, she said, including acrobatics.
Haynes said Dolly loved it when the couple went to restaurants and brought back doggie bags, and that the little canine really loved iced tea.
Strobo said he plans to have his parents cremated and sprinkle their ashes in the Texas hills.
Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118 or firstname.lastname@example.org