A suicide pact spurred by a life-threatening illness was responsible for the deaths of a Sparks couple near a Sierra lake in California, authorities said Tuesday.
The bodies of James Ponder and Marlene Maloney, both 44, were found Sunday near Millerton Lake north of Fresno, Calif. The couple were not married.
Madera County, Calif., sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart said a letter received Tuesday by an unidentified family member from Maloney shows the suicide pact stemmed from a life-threatening illness she had.
"It appears they didn't think the chances were good to turn around the illness," Stuart said. "She doesn't want to be a burden and he can't live without her.
"I don't know if I can describe how detectives are taking this. It's one of those absolutely tragic stories. It absolutely breaks your heart," she added.
Ponder and Maloney both had single gunshot wounds to the head and investigators found a gun nearby.
Stuart said the couple left their identifications and information about their family members neatly in their tent at a nearby campsite.
Family members live in Arkansas and Montana.
The couple had been camping at Millerton Lake since Friday.