Elderly Texas man allegedly kills his 87-year-old wife

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by Jim Douglas / WFAA.com

WFAA.com

Posted on May 7, 2014 at 7:24 AM

CLEBURNE, Texas — Weeds and shrubs grow wild around the little house on Spring Branch Drive.

They could be a metaphor for the fear and violence that crept into the lives of the old couple who lived there.

Betty Ball, 87, reached out for help. She was growing fearful of her husband Sam's mental state.

"She was afraid. She was afraid of losing her life," Lois Rathgeber said. "I tried so hard to convince her to leave."

Betty had called out of the blue. She used to attend the Lutheran church where Lois' husband, Ben Rathgeber, served as pastor.

Lois gave her contacts for refuge, but she said Betty went back to Sam.

They had raised three kids together in over a half-century of marriage. They still worked together at their hangar business at Cleburne's airport, where Sam also gave flying lessons for years.

Investigators spent Tuesday there searching for clues.

The day before, they had arrested Sam for Betty's murder. They found her battered body wrapped up in a blanket at their house.

"We were shocked," Pastor Rathgeber said. "But the powder keg was lighted."

Just last month, police had come to the house on an assault call. But Betty didn't press charges. She did ask a justice of the peace to commit Sam for a mental evaluation for dementia.

Judge Ronny McBroom said government mental health workers checked him, and did not find justification to commit him. McBroom said Betty Ball was desperate, and he's frustrated he couldn't do more to help her.

On Tuesday, Sam Ball turned 83 while in jail, accused of murder. Judge McBroom set bond at $1 million.

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