CHATSWORTH — A man fatally shot his wife at point-blank range and then turned the gun on himself, days after she said he had abused her and had obtained a restraining order against him, sheriff's deputies said Friday.
David William Schenk, 39, and Heather Jan Fredette Schenk, 46, had a volatile and strife-torn marriage, according to neighbors, who said they often heard the couple arguing at the home in the 21400 block of Wahoo Trail.
Deputies said they had been called to the unkempt two-story house as recently as a week ago. Each time, the wife claimed to have been physically abused or threatened, but declined to prosecute, police said.
"We've been there on at least two prior occasions," said Sgt. Dirk Edmundson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's homicide unit. Friends said Heather Schenk had called the sheriff's Lost Hills Station almost daily the week before her death.
A neighbor went to the house Thursday night, found the door open and a purse on the table, but Schenk did not answer when he called her name, neighbors said. Concerned, the neighbor telephoned sheriff's deputies and asked them to check the house.
At 2:19 a.m., deputies said, they discovered that the back door leading to Heather Schenk's bedroom had been kicked in--the door jam splintered. Inside, the woman's decomposing body, with a bullet-hole in the head, lay on her blood-soaked bed, and her husband, also with a head wound, was on the floor.
Heather Schenk's elderly father, who has Alzheimer's disease, was found in the house, apparently oblivious to the deaths.
Her two young sons from a previous marriage--Arthur John, 11, and Jake, 9--were visiting their father in Arizona at the time of the shootings, neighbors and deputies said. On Friday afternoon, they flew in to Los Angeles, where they learned of their mother's death, friends said.
On Monday, a restraining order was issued against David Schenk, requiring him to stay at least 100 yards away from his wife. But friends say she was unable to serve the order.
Heather Schenk tried to serve the order on her husband Monday, "but David threw them on the ground and ran over them with his truck," said Sandra Tremiti, a childhood friend of Heather's.
In a declaration she filed in court, Heather Schenk described an incident on July 31 that might have foreshadowed her death only a week later.
"I informed [David] that I wanted a divorce. [David] did not respond and simply proceeded upstairs," Heather Schenk wrote. "Shortly thereafter, however, [he] came back with a gun. He then threw me on the bed. He held me down with one arm and held the gun with his free hand. [David] repeatedly stated that he was going to kill me and then take his own life."
David Schenk then ripped off Heather Schenk's clothes, threatened to rape her--but relented after she pleaded with him to stop, according to the statement.
"If someone really, really, wants to kill somebody, a restraining order is not going to stop them," said Peter Korn, a prosecutor with the Los Angeles County district attorney's domestic violence unit. "The obsessive, stalking types--nothing may stop them, even after they've gotten out of prison 10 years later."
Family friends say David Schenk had been abusing and intimidating his wife ever since the couple married in Las Vegas last year.
"He was very violent and very addicted to crank [methamphetamine]," said Tremiti. "I used to tell her: 'Heather, you can't save the world.' And she would say: 'You don't know him; when he's not on drugs, he's wonderful.' "
Three weeks ago, Heather Schenk grew bitter about her husband's alleged drug use and suspected him of infidelity and kicked him out, Tremiti said. But David Schenk continued to harass and intimidate her, friends say.
"He was stalking her every day, he was going over there all the time," Tremiti said. "He got the gun recently, she's been mortified about it. She was asking me: 'How do I get it away from him? He waved it in my face, he waved it at my dad.' She knew she was going to die."
On the same day Heather Schenk tried to serve her husband with the restraining order, she changed the locks to her home, said Tremiti. But another friend said David Schenk had threatened to break through the rear door, which overlooks the Ronald Reagan Freeway and Stoney Point.
"He was always threatening her about breaking through the back door," said Patricia Rodriguez of Winnetka, another of Heather Schenk's childhood friends. "She did everything possible to be safe, but if someone is going to get you--they will, no matter what."