The West Virginia State Police cites personal problems in the suicide of Corporal Marlo Gonzales, a 13-year veteran of the agency.
Gonzales died on July 18th from a shot fired from his service weapon while sitting in his cruiser, which was parked at his father-in-law’s driveway on Sycamore Road in Putnam County.
Inside the 41-page report written by First Sergeant R.W. Lively, statements were given by troopers who had contact with Gonzales in the time leading up to his suicide, Gonzales’ father-in-law, and Gonzales’ wife, and ex-wife.
According to the report, a statement from Gonzales’ father-in-law says that Gonzales "shared with him information that he had been attempting to take a leave of absence but had been denied and he had concerns that his temporary assignment at South Charleston would be extended."
The report goes on to state that Gonzales’ father-in-law’s "statements reflected his beliefs Cpl. Gonzales was not treated fairly by the State Police."
First Sergeant Lively pulled these files out of Gonzales’ personnel record he thought would be pertinent to this investigation:
- May 18, 2006: Request from Gonzales for voluntary transfer/reassignment to be transferred from the Winfield Detachment to the Clay Detachment.
- May 19, 2006: Special order from the WVSP transferring Gonzales from the Winfield to Clay Detachment.
- June 4, 2007: Special order from the WVSP temporarily transferring Gonzales from the Clay Detachment to the South Charleston Detachment.
- September 11, 2006: A correspondence letter of commendation addressed to Cpl. Gonzales from Colonel D.L. Lemmon.
- Two WVSP employee performance appraisals given on August 25, 2005, and September 8, 2006.
- Seven WVSP leave request forms containing leave requests for Cpl. Gonzales.
The report does not specify the time period of the seven leave request forms, nor does it specify whether or not the requests were approved or denied. WSAZ contacted the WVSP for further clarification on this issue, but we were told to file a freedom of information act request for this attachment to the report.
Statements made to Lively also indicate Gonzales was depressed. Gonzales’ father-in-law said Gonzales had mental health issues and had stopped taking his medications four days before his suicide.
A trooper who spoke with Gonzales less than 12 hours before his suicide indicated that Gonzales to him "appeared to be relaxed and no indications of problems were noted or discussed."
The day after Gonzales' death, Colonel D.L. Lemmon told the media there were no indications that Gonzales was in trouble.
"Obviously, we have things in place if we anticipate a situation like this, we are able to try to address them," said Lemmon. "He was a friendly guys, outgoing. We talked to several people who worked with him last night and today. Caught everybody by surprise."
Gonzales left behind a note, a tape recording, and cited a Bible verse: Psalm 128.
Governor Joe Manchin ordered a special team to examine trooper suicides – and to see if this is a problem in West Virginia. This team is still continuing to conduct research and compare West Virginia with other states with similar law enforcement systems.
Gonzales was the second state trooper to commit suicide since 1999.