DENVILLE, N.J. (AP) — A member of Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s transition team and her husband were under “enormous stress” in the weeks before he fatally shot her and then killed himself, their daughter said.
Lorraine “Lori” Bramhall told the Daily Record of Parsippany that John Bramhall believed his wife of 54 years, Joan, was suffering from dementia.
Lori Bramhall disagreed with the assessment, saying her mother could be “forgetful” but there were no apparent changes in her personality.
But longtime friend Keith Pierson told the newspaper that Joan Bramhall did appear to have some mental issues. He said she recently asked him whether President Richard Nixon, who died in 1994, was still alive, and he sometimes noticed she had a “vacant” demeanor.
Authorities have not said what might have prompted the murder-suicide in the couple’s Denville home. A medical examiner ruled Joan Bramhall’s death a homicide, while John Bramhall’s death was ruled a suicide.
A family member found the bodies Thursday morning and called police.
Joan Bramhall was a former Morris County clerk who was well-known in Republican political circles. She retired in December.
In a statement, Christie hailed Bramhall as an “outstanding public servant but an even better person” who would be sorely missed by family and friends.
“She was an extraordinarily selfless and generous person to friends and family alike. She honored me and Mary Pat with her friendship for the last 20 years. We considered her a dear friend and we are terribly saddened by her tragic passing. We send our condolences to Joan’s family,” he said.
John Bramhall, a successful builder of high-end homes, was laidback and loved to go on hunting trips, friends told the newspaper. When his wife retired after 15 years as county clerk, she said the couple hoped to travel and cruise to Alaska.
Lori Bramhall said that she and her father were estranged and that he had obtained domestic violence restraining orders against her and three of her adult children Wednesday. Those orders were dismissed Friday.
“My father said I wasn’t allowed to talk to my mother. I loved my mother, and she loved me,” Lori Bramhall said, noting that her parents at various times had raised all six of her children because she was dealing with substance abuse problems.
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