Newbury, Vt., Couple Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide

  • Two stools at the Rivers Edge Eatery counter in Newbury, Vt., were filled daily at breakfast by Kenneth Welch, 80, and his wife Barbara Welch, 76, according to an employee who declined to identify himself Tuesday, December 6, 2016. The couple was found, shot dead, in an apparent murder - suicide by Vermont State Police conducting a welfare check Monday night at the request of a relative who said Kenneth Welch called and said he had shot his wife. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Kenneth Welch and his wife, long time Newbury, Vt. Town Clerk Barbara Welch were found shot dead in an apparent murder - suicide at their home in Newbury, Vt., late Monday night, December 5, 2016. Vermont State Police report that they found the couple when a relative requested a welfare check after Kenneth Welch called the relative and said he had shot his wife. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Update: Preliminary autopsy results confirmed the cause and manner of the deaths to be homicide for Barbara Welch and suicide for Kenneth Welch, according to a news release from Vermont State Police Wednesday afternoon.

Newbury, Vt. — A small-town community is reeling after an elderly husband and wife died on Monday night in what police say is an apparent murder-suicide.

Kenneth and Barbara Welch were found shot to death inside their Welch Road home around 11 p.m. on Monday, and police say information from a relative leads them to believe Kenneth Welch, 80, shot his 76-year-old wife before taking his own life.

“So far, everything from the scene is consistent with a murder-suicide,” Vermont State Police Capt. JP Sinclair said on Tuesday night.

The state Major Crime Unit was on scene Tuesday but didn’t uncover any additional clues as to why the shooting took place, Sinclair said. The Welches’ bodies have been transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office, and autopsy results are expected back today.

“We are still interviewing friends and family to find out what was going on in their lives,” Sinclair said.

Meanwhile, several community members said they are shocked to learn of the news. Kenneth Welch drove a school bus in Newbury for 50 years, while Barbara Welch held the title of Newbury town clerk for 34 years.

Their only neighbor on the dead-end street near P&H Truck Stop off Exit 17 said she is in disbelief.

“My kids were just out there sliding on his yard yesterday, then he walked back to my house with me,” 42-year-old Melissa Gilmore said of Kenneth Welch. “I am just so shocked. I spent half of the day crying. I just feel so bad. I don’t understand, and I probably never will.”

Gilmore said Barbara Welch suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and that her memory problems appeared to be worsening, but said she didn’t know what could have led to this.

Gilmore and her husband would often pop over to the Welches’ home, and the Welches would return the favor by bringing Gilmore’s children a snack every week.

“They were just really nice people,” she said. “They were great neighbors, and they loved my kids.”

Several people in town said the Welches were well-known. The pair would often be spotted sitting at the bar at TJ’s Lunch Counter, now known as The Rivers Edge Eatery, on Main Street in nearby Wells River.

“Everybody was shocked to hear about what went on,” said an employee who declined to be identified. “They always came in happy and were very sweet.”

Wells River Constable Glen Godfrey said he knew Kenneth Welch for decades and worked alongside him when Welch sat on the cemetery commission, a post he held pretty much since the commission’s inception.

Welch often mowed Oxbow Cemetery in Newbury with a push mower, a task that would take him roughly 30 hours, he told a Valley News photographer in 2005.

“It was really a surprise to me when I heard it on the news,” Godfrey said while sitting inside his apartment on Tuesday. “They were nice people.”

Barbara Welch, he said, was extremely efficient in her duties as town clerk.

“She ran that whole town by herself,” Godfrey said. “I will never forget that.”

Butler’s Bus Service manager Christen Davis said Kenneth Welch drove a school bus in town for decades.

“For 50 years, he drove the same route,” Davis said, a tear in her eye. “He had grandparents, children, grandchildren...”

He had since retired, she said.

Newbury resident Lyman Beecher, a retired teacher who met Kenneth Welch at Newbury Elementary School, recalled the Welches as popular and pleasant people.

“They were serious, but they really worked hard and did good things,” Lyman said while finishing his lunch at the truck stop.

Barbara Welch also had long been retired; she stepped down from her post as town clerk in 2002, said Susan Underwood, the current Newbury town clerk.

Underwood was hesitant to comment on the situation and said she was worried she wouldn’t be able to say enough about the Welches to do them justice.

She did offer one statement, though.

“(Barbara Welch) was extremely knowledgeable about the town and its history,” Underwood said.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.


TJ’s Lunch Counter in Wells River, Vt., is now The Rivers Edge Eatery. An earlier version of this story used the old name.

An earlier version of the update at the top of this article misstated how police categorized Barbara Welch’s manner of death in a press release Wednesday afternoon.