Matt Mathes, the U.S. Forest Service's predominant media spokesman in California for the past 17 years, shot his wife and two dogs to death before killing himself in his American Canyon (Napa County) home, police said Tuesday. Mathes, 54, calmly called a police dispatcher at 6:15 a.m. Saturday to say that his ailing wife no longer wanted to live and that he did not want to live without her, police Sgt. Craig Nickles said, according to the Chronicle. Mathes told the dispatcher that he planned to shoot his wife and himself and that he would leave the front door open for police.
When authorities arrived at the couple's home a few minutes later, they found the bodies of Mathes, his wife, Karen Pang Mathes, 52, and the two dogs, along with a handwritten suicide note.
"He was pretty detail oriented, and everything was kind of laid out in the note," Nickles told the Chron. "We don't see cases like this too often, but they aren't unheard of. Usually you'll see it with an elderly couple, when someone is terminal. We just don't know what the case is here."
Mathes, a frequently quoted spokesman, had been with the U.S. Forest Service for nearly 30 years and was just months away from being able to retire.
Janice Gauthier, the region's communications director and Mathes' boss, called him a consummate professional -- a bright, energetic and principled man with a penchant for backing the underdog. "Matthew was an intellectual," she told the LA Times. "He was a real thinking person, very well-read, very cultured."
[Other reports: AP, Napa Valley Register] (Photo credit: Forest Service via AP)