For weeks, co-workers at a mental hospital tried to protect Teresa Bender from her estranged husband, who had been charged with physically and verbally abusing her.
"Teresa knew that he had problems and yet she still married him," former colleague Sue Cornell said Tuesday of the quiet, hard-working nursing assistant. "He has been off the deep end for two years at least."
Hours after expiration of a court order keeping Virgil Bender, 34, away from his wife, he fatally shot Mrs. Bender, 28, and two of her protectors _ including Cornell's son _ in a shotgun ambush Monday at an Oshkosh apartment. He then apparently killed himself.
"I could not understand why this man was not locked up and treated. I know that others out there were afraid of him," said Cornell, whose 27-year-old son, Robert, was killed along with Glen Lohry, 40.
Neighbors reported hearing gunshots about 5 a.m. at Mrs. Bender's apartment in Oshkosh.
Investigators were uncertain whether Cornell and Lohry arrived there after being summoned or had spent the night to protect the woman, said Oshkosh police Sgt. Scott Kronenwetter.
Mrs. Bender, Cornell and Lohry worked at the mental hospital as nursing assistants, said director Stanley York. Cornell and Lohry were friends of Mrs. Bender's and had escorted her home several times to protect her, York said.
Tom Werner, director of Winnebago County's family court counseling, said that short of going "underground" to avoid her husband, Mrs. Bender did all the right things and still a tragedy occurred.
Virgil Bender worked at the hospital for four years before he was fired in January 1992 in a "medical termination," York said. He said confidentiality laws prevented him from disclosing details.
Bender, a large man with experience as a boxer, met his wife while working at the hospital and married her six months ago, the second marriage for both, York said. Mrs. Bender filed for divorce Friday, according to court records.
Bender was charged with battery after a fight at the couple's home April 13 and had been arrested Thursday for disorderly conduct for shouting profanities at his wife, said Joe Paulus, Winnebago County district attorney.
A friend posted $150 to free Bender from jail on the second charge and he was ordered to have no contact with his wife for 72 hours.