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Cottage Grove death investigation continues

Police were dispatched to Timothy and Wendy LaFrance's Cottage Grove home numerous times in recent years.

There were medical calls, welfare checks and requests to help with family disputes, but police said they had no reason to suspect anything unusual when Timothy LaFrance refused assistance after officers were dispatched to the home last Wednesday.

Yet, just a short time later, LaFrance called 911 to report that his wife was not breathing. Officers found Wendy LaFrance dead in the home and transported her husband to the hospital, suspecting he had overdosed on medication, said Cottage Grove police Capt. Pete Koerner.

The 52-year-old woman's death triggered an investigation that turned up a bowl of more than 100 prescription drug pills in the home and notes suggesting the couple had written a suicide pact, according to police and court documents from a search warrant.

Police early this week called the death suspicious and continued to look into Timothy LaFrance's explanation that the couple had planned to overdose together.

"It's really going to fall back on what the toxicology reports (conclude)," Cottage Grove police Capt. Pete Koerner said of the direction of the investigation.

Two calls

Wendy LaFrance's body was found after two emergency calls to the home Jan. 5.

Police first were dispatched there at 12:26 p.m. to check the welfare of a 52-year-old man, later identified as Timothy LaFrance. His employer, a White Bear school bus service, had called police to say that LaFrance had not been heard from since Dec. 28 and noted that he had past medical issues.

When police went to the LaFrance home, Timothy answered the door and said he and his wife had been sick for a while, and he refused help, Koerner said. He told officers not to go in the bedroom because his wife was sleeping. Police told him to call his employer, and they left the scene.

Authorities were dispatched again to the home after Timothy LaFrance called police at 1:17 p.m. The call came in as a report of an adult female who was not breathing. LaFrance told authorities that he and his wife took pills together to commit suicide, Koerner said.

Wendy LaFrance's body was found in a bedroom.

Timothy LaFrance, who was conscious when police arrived, was taken by ambulance to Regions Hospital for a possible overdose.

The Ramsey County medical examiner's office conducted an autopsy on Wendy LaFrance.

Nobody else was in the home at the time police were called Jan. 5.

Police did not call Timothy LaFrance a suspect in the death investigation, but Koerner said officers had planned to interview him and considered him a "person of interest."

"We still want to know his side," Koerner said.

There is no history of domestic violence calls at the residence, but Koerner said officers have responded to emergency calls made by the LaFrances at least 16 times since 2006, at the Hinton Avenue residence and a previous home in Cottage Grove.

Some calls were mental health related, while others were for medical assistance or welfare checks, Koerner said. Still others were for assistance with disputes involving family members.

There were minor calls as well. For instance, Wendy LaFrance called police in July 2009 to report that she had found her old "duty belt" containing ammunition and wanted to dispose of it. She said she had been an armed guard.

Home searched

A day after Wendy LaFrance's body was found, police searched of the home.

They conducted the search in part because it appeared "suspicious" that Timothy LaFrance did not tell officers of his dead wife when they were first called to the home, according to the search warrant application.

Investigators recovered financial documents, bank information, a computer and mobile phones and other items from the home.

Not all deaths prompt a look at someone's financial background, Koerner said, but the circumstances of this case led police to seek information about whether the couple had any financial hardships.

Also, Koerner added: "In a case like this, we're going to make sure there aren't huge sums of life insurance out there."

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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