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Police: Carbon monoxide likely killed Cape couple

By Staff | May 20, 2010

A Cape Coral couple found dead in their home Wednesday night appear to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning, according to police.
Rogelio Gonzalez, 80, and Shannon Lynnette Johnson, 75, both of 228 S.E. 30th St., were found in their home at about 7:26 p.m. by a relative who had stopped by to check on them. Connie Barron, police spokeswoman, reported that it appears the couple “inadvertently left a van running in the garage.”
“While it appears one of the victims may have shut off the vehicle and opened the garage door to air out the area, the Cape Coral Fire Department’s Hazmat Unit found an elevated level of carbon monoxide in the home,” she reported in a prepared statement.
Lee County EMS pronounced the victims dead at 7:39 p.m., according to Barron. The final cause of death for both is pending toxicology results.
Sylvia Gonzalez, a friend of the Gonzalez family, said Thursday that the couple had been together for about four or five years. The family was not aware of any health or mental problems, and the two were planning a June trip to visit family in Maine.
“No issues, no depression, no nothing,” Sylvia Gonzalez said. “He was a vegetarian and everything.”
She added that they were “a very happy couple,” who liked to travel a lot.
“He was a very happy man. He was joking all the time,” Sylvia Gonzalez said. “She was a very pleasant person.”
The bodies were found by Gonzalez’s brother, Pascual Gonzalez. A neighbor of the couple had called Pascual after she noticed that their garage door had been open for an usual amount of time, Sylvia Gonzalez explained.
“Apparently, the next-door neighbor, she had come home the night before and noticed that the garage door was open, completely open, but she didn’t want to call because it was so late,” she said.
When the neighbor got up Wednesday morning, she saw that the garage door was still open but assumed that the couple was aware of it. The neighbor left and returned home later to find that the garage was still open. That is when the neighbor called Pascual to find out when he had last talked to Gonzalez.
According to Sylvia Gonzalez, Pascual had last seen his brother over the weekend, but a nephew had talked to Gonzalez on Tuesday while he was at the couple’s home. The couple asked the nephew to stay for lunch but he could not. The nephew also returned on Wednesday to help around the home.
“He had saw the garage door open, but he didn’t want to bother them,” she said. “After they eat, they take a nap and don’t want to be bothered.”
After talking to the neighbor, the family tried to reach the couple by cell phone but they did not answer the calls. Although he had keys to his brother’s home, Pascual went to the house, but was able to enter through the open garage and then through the unlocked interior garage door.
“He went in and started calling his name, and he found him in the bathroom,” Sylvia Gonzalez said. “He touched him to see if he had a pulse. He was cold.”
Pascual then found Johnson in a bedroom, half lying on the bed. He went outside and called the neighbor into the home, and they then called 911.
According to police report, a detective who responded to the home reported that she “was not feeling well inside the residence and there was an odd odor inside the master bedroom.” The Hazmat Unit responded to check the air and found “an elevated level of carbon monoxide.”
Everyone who entered the home was checked for carbon monoxide exposure, the report states. The detective was taken to hospital for extra evaluations.
Neither Pascual nor the neighbor reported smelling any odor while inside the home.
“He never smelled anything, and the lady that went inside never smelled anything either,” Sylvia Gonzalez said.
She added that Pascual and his wife, Gardenia Gonzalez, are trying to deal with the loss along with the rest of family. Their church, the First Hispanic Baptist Church, is offering assistance and support during this tragedy.
“They’re kind of OK,” Sylvia Gonzalez said. “We’re giving them support.”
No funeral services had been planned as of Thursday afternoon.