Doug and Elena Brown stopped to visit with neighbors a few days ago while out for a walk near their south Kennewick home.
They seemed normal, their usual selves, said Judith Homewood, whose husband, Russell, chatted with the couple for a bit before they went on their way.
But a day or so later, the Browns and their daughter Carmina, 27, who was developmentally disabled, would be dead in a suspected murder-suicide.
All appeared to die from single gunshot wounds, authorities said. The initial investigation points to Doug Brown as the shooter, said John Hansens, Benton County coroner.
He noted the investigation still is ongoing and described that finding as preliminary. He’ll determine Dec. 14 whether to perform autopsies on the Browns.
A day after the deaths, neighbors and friends of the Browns were shaken and reeling.
“This is an absolute shock,” Judith Homewood said. “Nobody can understand what could have happened to this family in such a short time frame. We have questions, but there are no answers.”
The Browns were found about 1 p.m. Friday in their home on the 2600 block of South Kellogg Street.
Doug and Elena, both 64, were retired Navy officers. Carmina was reportedly their only child.
When the Browns settled in the Tri-Cities more than a decade ago, they threw themselves into service.
They coached a Special Olympics swimming team, and stepped into leadership roles in community groups.
Elena Brown was a board member of The ARC of Tri-Cities and also helped start Modern Living Services, which provides housing, life skills and educational resources to people with developmental disabilities.
She was an absolutely wonderful mother. She wanted what was best for Carmina. Sherry Erickson, co-founder, Modern Living Services
“She was an absolutely wonderful mother. She wanted what was best for Carmina,” said Sherry Erickson, co-founder of Modern Living Services.
Elena also was “a good task master, making sure everybody stayed on track. She was very passionate about housing for people with developmental disabilities,” Erickson said.
Andrea Mallonee, Modern Living Services board president, described Elena as “a go-getter.”
She helped shepherd through the group’s Kennewick Perry Suites project. The apartment complex for disabled adults opened in 2014.
Mallonee said she looked forward to working with Elena on a new project in the new year — a pair of adult group homes. The Browns had purchased property for such a home, with the idea that it could be a place for Carmina to one day live, and Modern Living Services leaders also want to build one.
“I was hoping she was going to take on this project. I can’t imagine anybody else (doing it),” Mallonee said.
Doug Brown, meanwhile, served as president of the Panoramic Heights Homeowners Association and was a charter member and officer of the Horse Heaven Hills Kiwanis Club.
Club president Don Barnes knew Doug to be a man of integrity, he said. He cared about details, about getting things right.
“He was very proud and very willing to serve and honored to serve,” Barnes said.
Barnes struggled Saturday to wrap his head around the deaths. Judith Homewood did too.
She and her husband, a Coast Guard veteran, bonded with the Browns over military service. The Homewoods also have a granddaughter with a developmental disability.
“You have to kick into high gear when you have a child with development disabilities. They were that kind of people — they did what she needed,” Judith said.
“It’s a huge loss, and I can’t imagine — I just can’t imagine (what happened),” she said, trailing off. “It’s just awful.”