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Thousand Oaks Couple's Death an Apparent Murder-Suicide

Tragedy: An elderly husband and wife are found dead of gunshot wounds in their apartment. They had been struggling financially, acquaintances say.

January 04, 2001|KATIE COOPER and HOLLY J. WOLCOTT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — An elderly couple who apparently had been struggling financially for several years were found shot to death inside their apartment Wednesday morning in what police consider a murder-suicide, authorities said.

Herman Irving Rudman, 77, and his wife, Joyce, 75, died of single gunshot wounds to the head, said Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Craig Stevens.

Preliminary reports from Ventura County sheriff's deputies indicate Herman Rudman used a small-caliber handgun to shoot his wife and then turned the gun on himself, Stevens said. Joyce Rudman was found in her pajamas in the couple's bed, and her husband was found fully clothed on the floor next to her, authorities said.

Multiple suicide notes were found, Stevens added, but no further information was available.

"We are just numb, shocked, saddened," said Kathy Bender, a friend and colleague of Joyce Rudman's at Gorian & Associates Inc., a Westlake Village company where she worked for the last 10 years as a draftsperson.

The couple were found about 9 a.m. after their son, Bruce Rudman, asked the manager of the Knolls apartment complex in the 2700 block of Conejo Canyon Court to check on them.

According to Stevens, Joyce Rudman apparently had failed to show up for work Tuesday and Wednesday, and co-workers called the couple's son.

The time of death has not been established, but Stevens said the couple were last heard from about 7 p.m. New Year's Day.

Authorities, several colleagues and friends said the couple had been struggling financially for several years and had been forced to move out of their house recently.

"We are aware they may have had some financial problem," Stevens said.

"Every once in a while I'd heard things about their money struggles," said Carl Fenstermacher, a brother-in-law of the couple's daughter, Robin Fenstermacher of Thousand Oaks.

According to Carl Fenstermacher, the Rudmans had owned a couple of a houses in the Thousand Oaks area but had been forced to sell. Herman Rudman apparently was struggling as a manufacturing representative selling battery-charging devices.

John B.B. Whitton, owner of National Mail Services, a mailbox business in Westlake Village, said the couple had rented a mailbox from him and talked occasionally about money troubles.

Whitton, who also owns a legal service business, said he had helped Rudman prepare a small claims court form to sue a company that owed Rudman a commission that was apparently never paid. Whitton also said the couple often entered contests through national magazine companies in hopes of winning prize money.

Herman Rudman, a veteran of World War II, and his wife were apparently college graduates from Ivy League schools. Whitton said he believed Herman Rudman had earned an engineering degree from Brown University. Whitton thought Rudman may have lost a job in the aerospace industry during the downsizing of the 1980s.

He said he saw the couple nearly every day when they picked up their mail. Joyce Rudman, he said, was always friendly, but her husband rarely smiled or exchanged pleasantries.

Neighbors at the Knolls apartment complex, near Westlake Boulevard and Avenida de los Arboles, said the couple kept to themselves, as is typical of many residents in the 600-unit complex near Lang Ranch.

Jeanne Hughes said she rarely saw Herman Rudman but that his wife was always nice to her.

The couple are survived by their son, Craig, daughter, Robin, and five grandchildren.

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Times researcher John Tyrrell contributed to this report.

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