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Archive for Saturday, July 13, 2002

fears prove justified for couple

July 13, 2002

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Pete Wallace and Wyona Chandlee's friends were right: Something was terribly wrong inside the elderly couple's East Lawrence home.

The two were dead, their bodies on the floor in the dining area of their house at 1530 Learnard Ave., left to be discovered late Thursday afternoon by a friend and Chandlee's stepson.

Earlier Thursday, George and Joyce Elliott had seen no sign of their close friends, even though the couple's vehicles were parked at the residence. Both George and Joyce had knocked on doors and rang door bells, but gotten no response.

"It just didn't seem right," George Elliott said during an interview Friday. He called Steve Chandlee, Wyona Chandlee's stepson, to let them into the house.

"We both immediately saw a glimpse of what was there and turned around and walked back outside," Elliott said. "Steve used his cell phone to call police."

Friday, police continued investigating what Chief Ron Olin called a double homicide  the city's first multiple slaying in almost a decade.

During a morning news conference, Olin identified the victims, said detectives had no suspects and that work would continue at the crime scene, possibly for several days.

"I want us to do this absolutely by the book," Olin said. "I want us to take as much time as we can possibly take to get every piece of evidence that's available to us out of the house."

Autopsies were performed Friday on the victims, but results were not released.

'A working theory'

Olin said police had "a working theory" about how Wallace and Chandlee, both 72 years old, were killed, but offered few other details.

He said the last time the department investigated a similar homicide was in August 1984, when 80-year-old Marguerite Vinyard was killed by a burglar in her residence at 2100 Tenn.

But Olin declined to say whether there were signs of a break-in. He said he did not know whether anything was missing from the house.

"This is very early in the investigation," he said. "We are building a foundation upon which we can move."

About 25 officers are working on the case, including some from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and agents of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Olin said.

Police released no more information Friday after Olin's news conference.

George L. "Pete" Wallace and Chandlee had known each other for years, said Elliott and others who knew them. Both were previously married and they and their late spouses often had gone camping together, Elliott said.

A few years ago, Wallace moved from his home in Wyandotte County to live with Chandlee at the house on Learnard Avenue.

"They were really in love with each other," Elliott said. "He always liked to tease. He was always joking."

Victim's heart problems

Wallace was a longtime member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles. He transferred his membership from Wyandotte County to Eagles Lodge 309 in Lawrence. A month ago, he became the lodge president.

"He'd only presided over three meetings," said lodge member and friend Claud Aubry. "It's just a real shock."

Wallace had heart problems and spent Tuesday night at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., Aubry and Elliott said. Wallace and Chandlee returned home sometime Wednesday.

Elliott said he was confident the crime would be solved.

"For this town to have this kind of a catastrophe, it's just unusual. It's just hard to deal with," he said. "You read about it, but you think it will never happen."

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