By Zachary Van Brunt
OKANOGAN - Two women are dead and another hospitalized at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane after an apparent murder-suicide Thursday, Aug. 25.
The Okanogan County Sheriff's Office was notified shortly after 5 p.m. of three shots fired at 522 N. Second Ave. One female victim was found alive at the scene along with the bodies of two other women.
Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers declined to confirm the names of the shooter and victims, pending notification of next of kin. But neighbors identified the three women as housemates Shelly Payton and Rene Minard, and friend Catrina Fling of Riverside.
Neighbors said Payton's teenage son, Anthony, was at football practice at the time of the shooting.
Friends of those involved say Fling was the lone survivor.
Payton and Fling worked at Wal-Mart, neighbors said. Minard was the manager at Caso's grocery store and provided karaoke entertainment in the area.
A few neighbors near the crime scene were crying and others hugging. A lot were on the telephone telling friends and relatives of what they've seen and heard.
According to those neighbors, Minard and Payton had a tenuous romantic relationship that had ended some time ago. Minard wanted to move out, and told Payton so that afternoon.
Fling, a good friend of the couple, apparently attempted to intervene when Payton, who has a military background, allegedly shot Fling in the abdomen, neighbors said. Payton then allegedly shot Minard before turning the gun on herself.
Rogers declined to confirm statements made by neighbors and the shooting remained under investigation Thursday night.
Rogers did confirm that one victim was found dead at the scene. The second victim and suspect were transported to Mid-Valley Hospital.
The suspect was pronounced dead at the hospital and the second victim airlifted out of the area, he said.
Minard's friends at The Cariboo Inn were in shock.
"I passed the ambulance on my way out and I was, like, 'What in the world?'" said Mike Kostic, manager of The Cariboo Inn, where Minard spun karaoke records.
"I came back here and told them to shut the bar down," he said. "We closed down early because nobody really wanted to work."
The Cariboo turned into a makeshift memorial Thursday night as friends and family gathered to reflect on the day's events.
"She was the nicest person I ever met," Kostic said. "She just had a big heart. It's really a shame. We were in shock. Nobody here really expected it."
Neighbors said Payton's son is staying with family friends for the time being.