Jun 13, 2014 8:35 PM by Zach Thaxton
The Cañon City Police Department is reeling in the wake of news that two of their closest long-time colleagues died in a murder-suicide Thursday. Police Chief Paul Schultz says retired police officer Daniel Samento, 56, shot and killed his wife Priscilla, 49, a veteran dispatcher, and then shot and killed himself.
The Samentos' bodies were discovered around 11:30 Thursday night after Priscilla failed to show up for her scheduled dispatcher shift at 11:00. "This is totally out-of-character," Schultz said. Repeated calls to Priscilla's phone went unanswered, so an officer was sent to their home in the 700 block of Whipple Avenue to investigate. Although their vehicles were parked in their carport, there was no answer at the door so officers went in a rear door and discovered the couple's bodies.
It is not yet clear how long the Samentos had been dead before their bodies were discovered, Schultz said, however neighbor Keith Leonhardt recalls seeing them in their yard Thursday morning. Leonhardt fought back tears as he described his neighbors Friday morning. "They were just very sweet people, stand-up people," Leonhardt said. "Pillar of the community."
The Samentos had spent decades in Cañon City. Dan retired in October 2011 after 30 years with the police force he joined not long after graduating from high school. Priscilla had spent 21 years with the department and attended high school in Cañon City. The couple did not have children of their own, however Dan had a son from a previous marriage, according to police.
Sergeant Shannon Byerly recalls Samento taking him under his wing when he joined the Cañon City police force. "Dan was well-thought-of on the department," Byerly said while choking back tears at a press conference Friday afternoon. "I worked with him a lot."
Neighbors reflected fondly on the Samentos' love for Corvettes and the gathering of fellow Corvette lovers they would host every summer. "They just couldn't have been a better neighbor," Leonhardt said.
No note was left behind to explain the murder-suicide, according to Chief Schultz. Leonhardt said Dan appeared to be suffering some obvious health problems recently. "He just started to deteriorate physically and maybe a little mentally, too," Leonhardt said. "It was just getting to him." Sgt. Byerly also acknowledged recent difficult times for the Samentos. "They had been struggling a little bit lately," Byerly said. "But they were a good couple. Everybody liked them a lot and we got along really well with them."
"This is a devastating event for the Cañon City Police Department," Schultz said. "I can tell you that our agency is literally reeling from this."
Details of memorial arrangements have not yet been determined.