Monday, March 11, 2002

Man dead, sister jailed

Family says woman's been mentally ill for years

By Jennifer Edwards,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOVELAND — A late-night fatal shooting Friday was a double blow for Rodger and Barbara Mendenhall. It involved two of their eight children.

        The Marietta, Ohio, couple said Sunday their youngest son, Rodger, 43, tenderly helped his older sister, Becky, who suffered from mental illness for years. She is charged with shooting him to death.

        Ms. Mendenhall once attempted suicide by shooting herself in the chest. She required medication and couldn't drive, her parents said.

        Her brother Rodger often picked her up at her Covedale apartment, a building where other mentally ill people reside, so they could spend the weekend together at his Loveland home.

        He was killed in the home that he recently went bankrupt renovating, they said.

        Mr. Mendenhall was the father of two teen-age boys.

        “She was our child, too, so it's a double loss,” said the elder Rodger Mendenhall, 73, Sunday in a phone interview from his Marietta home. “She's had trouble over the years, but she loved Rod very, very much. That's why the police are saying it just simply doesn't make any sense. They're trying to figure it out, too.”

        “He kind of looked out for her and she worked very hard to look out for him,” added their stepmother, Barbara Mendenhall, 71. “She was always so concerned about him. We are having a great deal of trouble with this.”

        Becky Mendenhall, 49, of the 1500 block of Hilsun Place, is accused of shooting her brother in the head at his home on West Loveland Avenue at about 11:40 p.m. Then she called a 911 dispatcher and admitted shooting him, according to the 911 tape.

        “He said he was depressed and wanted me to shoot him,” she told the dispatcher.

        When the dispatcher asked her if she had performed CPR on him, she replied: “I can't do CPR for Christ's sake, the guy is dead.”

        Ms. Mendenhall was charged with aggravated murder and tampering with evidence after police said she tried to “destroy and remove dry blood” from her hand at the Loveland Police Department, according to her arrest report.

        While her parents struggled Sunday to cope with the double tragedy, they worried that Ms. Mendenhall is without her medication at the Hamilton County Justice Center. She was held over the weekend without bond and is scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. today.

        Friday was not the first time she has fired a gun, her parents said. Several years ago, the woman was diagnosed with bipolar illness and shot herself in the chest. At the time of Friday's shooting, she was undergoing mental care, they said, but they were unsure what type of medication she had been prescribed.

        “She's had more number of psychiatrists than I can even remember over the years,” her father said.

        But recently, their son was going through hard times, too. He had filed for personal bankruptcy and was devastated over that, they said. His finances crumbled after he sank all his money into the rundown home he was remodeling, which he hoped to sell for a profit.

        “He got in over his head. He was depressed and felt very badly,” Mr. Mendenhall said. “He was having a great deal of difficulty with it.”

        Their son worked for the State of Ohio's mental retardation department as an attendant at a group home in Batavia for 10 years, caring for patients, the Mendenhalls said. They weren't sure of his title or the agency's name.

        Rodger Mendenhall leaves 15- and 14-year-old sons, who live with their mother in Loveland.

        “They're not doing very well,” Mrs. Mendenhall, said of her grandsons. “They were quite close and got together all the time with their father. They live about three blocks from him, so they were there very, very frequently.”


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