Details of the death of Lake Edward Township couple released | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Details of the death of Lake Edward Township couple released

Posted: June 27, 2012 - 10:20pm
Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch Emergency personnel gather outside the Kathleen and Kenneth Ponsness home in Lake Edward Township on April 30 after a fire was reported on the property. After the fire was extinguished, firefighters found two bodies in the house.
Steve Kohls/Brainerd Dispatch Emergency personnel gather outside the Kathleen and Kenneth Ponsness home in Lake Edward Township on April 30 after a fire was reported on the property. After the fire was extinguished, firefighters found two bodies in the house.

Final autopsy results in the murder-suicide involving a Lake Edward Township couple were released this week.

Fifty-seven-year-old Kathleen Marie Ponsness died from manual strangulation. Her husband, Kenneth Alan Ponsness, 56, died of an apparently self-inflicted .22 caliber gunshot wound to the head.

These were the final autopsy results from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner that were reported in Crow Wing County Sheriff’s incident report of the deaths of the Lake Edward Township couple — whose bodies were found April 30 in their residence during a structure fire — that the sheriff’s office later ruled as a murder-suicide.

No charges were filed in the death of the couple and the case is closed, reported the sheriff’s office. Therefore the incident report is a public document.

In the report:

• The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the address of 22916 Tranquil Lane on April 30. When the deputy walked up to the property he saw smoke was coming from the garage. Smoke was coming from the attic vent and several windows but appeared to be smoke blowing in from the garage. The deputy touched the window of the door and it was very warm. Once Nisswa fire arrived on scene, firefighters started to put the fires out.

• A Nisswa firefighter noticed all the house doors were locked. A deputy noticed several windows were partially open with the screens on and a small amount of smoke beginning to exit the east side of the residence. Due to the wind direction and proximity of the garage, the deputy believed the smoke was being blown into the residence from the detached garage.

• The Nisswa firefighters who initially entered the residence advised that the house was filled with smoke. The firefighter made his way to a bedroom after going through the kitchen. He went in and found a female laying in bed under a blanket and unresponsive. He and another firefirefighter, checked for a pulse and there wasn’t one. They left the room and then returned a second time after the smoke had cleared and found a male next to the female in the bed.

• A third firefighter mentioned that the male’s body temperature appeared to be much warmer than that of the female’s body temperature.

• The bodies were not burned or charred.

• The Ponsnesses were found in the master bedroom bed. Kathleen was on her back covered up by bed sheets on the right side of the bed with no apparent or visible injuries or trauma. Kenneth was fully clothed on his back on the left side of the bed on top of the sheets. Kenneth had a .22 caliber rifle along his left side. There appeared to be a single gunshot wound. Alongside the right side of the bed, was a dead German shepherd dog with an apparent gunshot to the head. It was later determined that the dog was owned by the Ponsness’ daughter.

• The autopsies found that Kenneth died of an apparently self- inflicted .22 caliber gunshot to the head. Kathleen Ponsness died from manual strangulation.

• The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension collected the firearm and a knife from the scene for further analysis. The state fire marshal reported that there were two fires set in the garage. He also reported that in the house, there were three intentionally set fires in the basement and two intentionally set fires on the main floor. One of the fires on the main floor was in the spare bedroom and the other was in the living room area.

During the investigation:

• The deputy spoke to the owner of the property, Virginia Anderson, who advised that she was renting the property out to the Ponsness family. She last spoke to Kenneth sometime in January. She advised during that conversation to Kenneth that he and Kathleen needed to move out as she wanted to sell the property. Anderson said that they were supposed to be moved out by April 30.

• An employee at the Half Moon bar who knew Kenneth and Kathleen, last saw Kenneth on Saturday (April 28) at the bar. The employee said Kenneth was always very attentive to his wife and she had some ailment with her foot. The employee also said that Kenneth liked to play pull-tabs.

• A handwritten note was found in the Ponsness vehicle to their daughter indicating Kenneth had done something to himself and Kathleen. The vehicle was parked in the ditch area of a residence on Twin Lakes Road. The resident said he has employed Kenneth for the last four years on and off to work on his house. He said Kenneth was supposed to work for him at 9:30 a.m. April 30 and never showed up. He later told investigators that Kenneth had told him he thought Kathleen’s employer was trying to get rid of her.

• Another suicide note was found addressed to the resident on Twin Lakes Road.

• The BCA crime lab processed the scene and was advised by the state fire marshal that an oil jug had been located on a mattress that was thrown out the window of the northeast bedroom. The state fire marshal also removed another oil jug and a jug of lighter fluid from inside the residence.

• A family member indicated that everything was going well with Kenneth and Kathleen. The relative indicated that they had been struggling financially and that Kathleen was suffering from arthritis and was on medication for it.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at jennifer.stockinger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jennewsgirl.