WEST FARGO, N.D. -- A clearer picture has emerged of an estranged couple killed over the weekend in what police say was an apparent murder-suicide -- two deaths that jolted an otherwise peaceful neighborhood in West Fargo.
Authorities identified Sharon Beth Connell-Rick and Lance Lynn Rick, both 44, as the couple found dead early Sunday at 1072 Parkway Lane. They were married, but Rick had moved to Washington state not too long ago, West Fargo Police Chief Mike Reitan said Monday.
At this point, investigators believe Rick, while on a visit to Fargo, used a handgun to shoot his wife once in her body and once in her head before firing a shot into his head, Reitan said.
The husband and wife were both well-educated professionals who, before they separated, lived together in a newer development with ample houses and lush yards in southwest West Fargo.
As far as police know, the couple did not have a history of domestic violence, Reitan said. In the past three years, there were only two police calls to the home: both from neighbors concerned about the couple's dog being left outside, police records show.
Rick had a business called Rick Professional Services that specialized in human resources and workplace safety, according to his resume on Indeed.com. In something of a twist, he gave a presentation last year in Fargo titled "Workplace Violence and Preparedness" on how to deal with active shooters, armed intruders and threats to employees, according to The Forum's archive.
Since 2012, Connell-Rick had worked as senior vice president of human resources at TMI Hospitality, a national hotel firm in Fargo, according to her LinkedIn profile.
"Sharon was an impressive talent and outstanding steward of the TMI family," company spokeswoman Nicole Ellis said in an email. "We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss and our thoughts and prayers are with her family."
Rick had also worked at TMI, serving as the corporate safety director from April 2013 to August 2013, according to his resume.
The couple married in 2007 in Las Vegas, and in March, Connell-Rick filed for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences which make the continuation of the marriage intolerable," but the proceeding had not been finalized, according to Cass County court records.
Rick had been living in Moses Lake, Wash., at least since April when he obtained a Washington state I.D., Reitan said. "We don't have a clear picture as to when he began living out there," the chief said.
The couple did not have children together, the divorce filing said. But Connell-Rick had two children, a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter, from a previous relationship, Reitan said. The children were visiting their biological father when the shootings occurred, and they remained with family Monday, the chief said.
Homicides by gun are rare in West Fargo. The most recent one occurred in 1995 when a 17-year-old fatally shot 50-year-old Cherryl Tendeland, Reitan said.
Flight to Fargo
Reitan said Rick flew from Washington state to Fargo on Saturday, arriving about 2:30 p.m. Evidence at the Parkway Lane home indicated that the couple was killed in the late afternoon, he said.
A friend of Connell-Rick knew the husband was coming to Fargo to meet with Connell-Rick. Starting at 4 p.m., that friend tried to call Connell-Rick without success. The friend, a woman who lives in West Fargo, then went to the house at 8 and 11 p.m., but no one answered the door, police said.
Worried because she wasn't able to get ahold of Connell-Rick, the friend eventually called police to ask that officers check on her, Reitan said. The friend told an emergency dispatcher that Rick had flown in to get some belongings and that his rental car was in the driveway unlocked with the keys in the ignition, cellphone on the seat and luggage still inside, according to dispatch records.
At 12:08 a.m. Sunday, officers were sent to the house, where the doors were locked and the windows were secured. In a vehicle in the driveway, officers could see a handgun case, police said.
From outside the house, officers spotted a man and woman lying on the lower level, and the pair appeared to be dead. A neighbor who cared for Connell-Rick's pets let police inside, and through a search, officers determine that no one else was home, police said.
Next to Rick's body, there was a handgun, which police believe belonged to him, Reitan said.
While investigators believe the couple died from gunshot wounds, they are waiting for autopsy results to confirm how the two died, Reitan said. Preliminary results are expected later this week.
Whether Rick came to Fargo with plans to kill himself and his wife is unclear. "We don't know his intent, and that's why investigators continue to talk with family members and other acquaintances," the chief said.
Forum News Service reported Monday that a neighbor who lives behind the home in question heard what sounded like fireworks and called police. But Reitan said the time the neighbor heard that noise was well after the couple's estimated time of death.
Another neighbor, Rochelle Flatt who lives across the street, said Sunday that Connell-Rick was a friendly person who was happy to share things like gardening tips. Rick helped Flatt's husband restore a vintage muscle car, Flatt said.
"We were very good friends," she said. "We used to sit on their porch over there on summer nights."
Before working at TMI, Connell-Rick was vice president of human resources at Essentia Health. She received a bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and a master's degree in business management from North Dakota State University, according to The Forum's archive.
Rick received a master's degree in business administration from the University of Mary and a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, according to his resume on Indeed.com.
Forum News Service reporters Emily Welker and Dave Olson contributed to this story.