Thursday, January 11, 2001

Motive unclear in murder-suicide

Relative says man wanted control

By Tom O'Neill and Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BATAVIA TOWNSHIP — Award-winning cardiac nurse Mark Luers had an important job, a nice house, a gifted fourth-grade daughter, detailed plans for a comfortable retirement and — by all appearances — a happy marriage.

        It was all true, except the last part.

[photo] A portrait of the Luers family: Mark, daughter Nicole and Constance.
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        Still, a close family relative who outlined the Luers' marital troubles agreed with Clermont County investigators Wednesday: There is no clear reason why Mr. Luers fatally shot his young daughter, Nicole, in her bed, and did the same to his wife, Constance.

        Then, he apparently lay down next to his wife and killed himself the same way.

        He was 44, his wife 43, their daughter, 9.

        They died sometime between Saturday and Tuesday night, when their bodies were found by police.

        A .357-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver was found in Mr. Luers' hand.

        “I don't know what drove him to it,” Mrs. Luers' mother, Betty Pierce of Union, Ky., told the Enquirer, her voice strained by bitterness. “I don't know why and I'll never know because he took that secret with him.”

[photo] The Luers home was cordoned off with police crime scene tape Wednesday.
([name of photographer] photo)
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        She described her son-in-law as a control freak.

        There was no note, no sign of a struggle, no indication of financial worries and no reason to believe it was anything but a double murder-suicide, Clermont County Sheriff A.J. “Tim” Rodenberg said Wednesday.

        “Best way to describe it is an inexplicable tragedy,” he said. “It's one of those things we could look into for a decade and never really know why.”

        Police said there was no indication of recent marital discord, but Mrs. Pierce said that two years ago her daughter expressed a desire to leave the marriage, then stayed.

        No divorce-related paperwork was ever filed in Clermont County courts, nor were there any civil or criminal files on the family.

        “I talked her out of it,” Mrs. Pierce said of the separation plans.

        “I thought maybe she was stretching the truth. She tried to keep that marriage together. She did a lot of swallowing at my insistence. He kept digging at her for years.”

        Even so, she said the couple — who met though a dating service in 1988 and were married the following year — seemed happy when they gathered at Mrs. Pierce's house at Christmas.

        “They joked, they laughed and they held hands,” Mrs. Pierce said.

        Their marital difficulties aside, Mrs. Pierce said the hardest thing for the family to understand is why Mr. Luers killed his daughter.

        Nicole was in the gifted-student program at Merwin Elementary School in Pierce Township.

        “He loved that child. That's why we couldn't figure out why the world he blew that child away. He loved that child,” Mrs. Pierce said.

        She described Nicole as a “brilliant girl who from the age of 4 could read any book no matter how big the words were. She had the bluest eyes you ever saw, the color of the skies.”

        Mr. Luers was a nurse in the cardiac-care unit at Good Samaritan Hospital, and had worked there for 11 years with a solid work record, hospital officials said.

        On April 25, Mr. Luers was among six area nurses to receive the prestigious Florence Nightingale Excellence in Nursing Award.

        The honor is given to nurses who show the highest qualities in personal patient care. He received a bronze bust of the famed nurse and a $1,000 prize.

        Mrs. Luers was a computer analyst at the Gap Inc. distribution center in Boone County, where she had worked for 20 years.

        The Luerses died sometime after Saturday afternoon, when the mother and daughter were seen shopping in the Eastgate area. Calls by the Luerses' employers and officials at Merwin Elementary about the missing family prompted sheriff's deputies to enter the home at 9:15 p.m. Tuesday.

        After discovering the bodies, police searched the home for clues but found only indications of a happy life with a secure plan for the future.

        The mortgage was paid down to a small amount; documents reflected detailed retirement plans.

        Grief counselors spent Wednesday at Merwin Elementary, where Nicole was described by Principal Pat Crahan as “an extraordinarily bright child.”

        Nicole was involved in an independent-studies curriculum, excelling particularly in math and reading, Mr. Crahan said.

        “They did have a lot of questions, and obviously, there was a lot of emotion,” Dr. Randy Siler, head of the Clermont County Crisis Team, said of Nicole's schoolmates.

        “There were questions about what happened, and how any human being could do this to another human being, especially a wife and daughter.”

        “There's just a lot of shock,” he said.


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