$n$ Police investigate fatal shooting in WW

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WALLA WALLA -- Two days after a fatal shooting on Bonnie Brae Street, police continue to investigate if the incident was a suicide or homicide.

According to initial reports, Julie Sphuler, 42, shot herself with a 9 mm handgun at her home at 1031 Bonnie Brae early Wednesday morning.

Officers arrived on scene less than five minutes after dispatch received a report of the shooting at 8:09 a.m. to find a man and a woman had physically detained Jeffrey Sphuler, Julie Sphuler's husband, outside his home.

Neighbors had apparently heard a gunshot and then saw Sphuler, 53, walk outside with a handgun. When he turned the gun on himself, the neighbors leaped into action, according to Walla Walla police.

"A man and a woman wrested the gun away," said Officer Tim Bennett, department spokesman. Bennett added that apparently Sphuler picked up the gun after his wife was shot.

On Thursday, an autopsy was performed, which included a forensics investigation; police declined to comment on the results.

Bennett did confirm that Sphuler was questioned at length after the shooting and that witnessed or attended suicides are uncommon.

"What we have in this case is that he was in the house when she is killed by a gunshot. And that is what makes this an unusual case," Bennett said.

"This is very sad," Bennett said, adding the pair have children. "It doesn't sound like any children were present."

No arrests have been made, Bennett said.

Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326. Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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