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Murder-Suicide Cause Still a Mystery

February 07, 2001|MAI TRAN and JACK LEONARD | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

He was known as the cop with the soft touch, a veteran who could bring calm to a crisis. But while Joseph Bailey appeared adroit at handling the hard-charging life of an Anaheim police officer, events at home were slipping beyond his control.

Cancer was taking a heavy toll on his new wife, a former Anaheim code enforcement officer. At the same time, the couple was desperately trying to save a relationship that seemed to be running aground.

Still, nothing prepared those who knew them for the violence that erupted Monday morning, when Bailey called 911 and told dispatchers he had fatally shot his wife. Moments later, police say, Bailey turned the gun on himself.

The cause remains a mystery.

The couple's colleagues and friends say they never saw signs that might have warned of approaching violence. Bailey had only recently talked about how happy he was in Anaheim, where two months ago he was promoted into the prestigious gang unit.

"It just came out of the blue," Anaheim Police Lt. Ray Welch said. "He never said a word or behaved in any way that would have led me to believe that there was anything wrong. . . . It's a tragedy for everybody."

Investigators in Fountain Valley, where the couple lived, continue to dig for clues.

"We've got the loss of two lives here. . . . I think we still need to get to the core of what happened," Fountain Valley Police Sgt. Jim Perry said.

Michelle King, 39, joined the Anaheim Planning Department as a part-time code enforcement officer in November 1997. A former Los Angeles police officer, King quickly made friends in her new work. She was outgoing and a devoted mother, decorating her desk at City Hall with framed pictures of her children.

"She was a people person," said Roger Bennion, an Anaheim code enforcement supervisor. "She'd lighten up the room when she gets to work."

Co-workers recalled that King discovered she had health problems about three years ago. Neighbors said she suffered from cancer. Soon, she complained she felt weak and frequently called in sick.

Colleagues rallied to her side. Taking turns, they dropped by her single-story house on La Marquesa Avenue with food or took her kids out for pizza. On weekends, they rented a boat in Newport Harbor and took the three youngest--Cheyenne, Justin and Daryl--for picnics.

But King's health deteriorated. And in October, she resigned.

"She loved her job," said John Poole, a code enforcement officer. "She hated to quit because she didn't want to leave some of the people she knew."

In the months before her resignation, colleagues noticed a handsome man visiting King at work. But King kept her private life to herself. Two weeks before she left work, she finally told co-workers he was an Anaheim police officer she had been dating.

Colleagues were unsure where or when the couple met. But they appeared to have been seeing each other quietly for years, according to Bailey's ex-wife. Patricia Bailey said she separated from her husband in February 1999 after discovering he was having an affair with King.

Leaders from King's Mormon church said the couple married a few months ago. He had two children from his previous marriage, and she had five. The couple lived with four of her youngest. Regulars at their Fountain Valley church were struck by how well Bailey, 44, treated King's children, said Bruce Miller, regional head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The pair doted on the children, he said.

On Tuesday, Bailey would have celebrated his three-year anniversary as an Anaheim police officer. The tall, soft-spoken officer had moved from the California Highway Patrol, where he began working in 1984, to the Huntington Beach Police Department in 1992 before eventually joining Anaheim.

At home his relationship with King had become strained, according to church leaders.

Bailey recently suggested that the two needed marriage counseling, and the couple approached Mormon leaders for guidance, Miller said. He declined to elaborate, but said that the relationship was not abusive or violent.

The night before his death, Bailey called his church counselor for more guidance. Nevertheless, the deaths shocked church leaders.

"We are all sad and wondering why it happened," said Tim Miller, a bishop at the Fountain Valley church who counseled the couple. "There was not a hint. I guess we won't ever know."

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