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Wife dies; husband has head wound

A statue of the Virgin Mary with her arms outstretched stood in front of Mary and Joseph Machunk's mobile home Sunday, surrounded by flowers and facing yellow crime-scene tape.

Inside, detectives were investigating a death and what seemed to be a suicide attempt.

Mrs. Machunk, 72, was found dead in the living room and Machunk, 74, was found in the bedroom with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Pasco County sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers said.

The Sheriff's Office is investigating Mrs. Machunk's death "as if it was a homicide," but deputies do not know how she died, Powers said. "There was no obvious cause of death," he said. An autopsy is scheduled for today.

Machunk was taken by helicopter to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where he was in critical condition Sunday, a spokeswoman said.

Home health care worker Millie Francis, who lives nearby and had been caring for the couple, said she found Machunk on a bed and Mrs. Machunk on the floor in front of a sofa. He had blood on him, but she did not, Francis said. She discovered the couple shortly before 9:30 a.m.

Neighbors in the Colony Hills Mobile Home Park, where the couple lived, said that although Machunk had his own health problems, he cared for his wife with diligence and love.

"I can't believe Joe would harm anybody," neighbor Alice Josephs said. "And no one's going to tell me any different."

Machunk came to the Josephs' home Saturday night, exasperated because his wife would not get off the floor. Josephs went with Machunk to try to persuade Mrs. Machunk to get up.

"I said, "Oh, Mary, remember how we used to go dancing?' " Josephs asked her friend, hoping good memories would perk her up. "She said, "Maybe you can dance, but I can't dance anymore.' "

Neighbors said Mrs. Machunk suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

"She kept saying, "I can't move,' " Josephs said. Then, pointing to her head, she said, "It was all up here."

Before she left, Josephs and Machunk were laughing, and he seemed in good spirits, she said.

"He kept saying, "I feel sorry for Mary,' " Josephs said. "He said that often."

She added that she thought Machunk had considered a nursing home for his wife.

"She was stubborn, she didn't want to go," Josephs said. "He didn't have the heart to force her, I suppose. It's too late now.

"Yesterday I never dreamed that Mary would be gone today. It's a sad day."

The Machunks had been married for about four years but had lived together several years before they wed, Josephs said.

"They were very nice people," neighbor Mary Hess said. "He'd hold her hand and walk with her."

Sofia Anderson, the Machunks' next-door neighbor, said Mrs. Machunk had wandered into her home a number of times.

"She came in one day and made herself at home in my house, because she didn't know any better," Anderson said. Like other neighbors, Anderson remembered how lovingly Machunk always cared for his wife.

"He would take her out for walks," she said. "He was good to her."