Wife accused of killing husband a 'saint' and 'tremendous caregiver,' friends say

Longtime love story turns tragic; was it 'the last straw?'

Corey Perrine/Staff
Resident J.C. Chretien walks his 7 year-old West Highland white terrier, Toby, Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at Glen Eagle Golf and Country Club in Naples, Fla. Helen Hope Johns, 68, was booked Tuesday morning as authorities continued to investigate the death of 72-year-old Jack Johns. Monday night, at the request of a relative, deputies were called at the Johns residence. When they arrived Jack had been found shot, deceased inside the home. “What’s going on?” Chretien asked a deputy when passing through.

Photo by COREY PERRINE, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff Resident J.C. Chretien walks his 7 year-old West Highland white terrier, Toby, Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at Glen Eagle Golf and Country Club in Naples, Fla. Helen Hope Johns, 68, was booked Tuesday morning as authorities continued to investigate the death of 72-year-old Jack Johns. Monday night, at the request of a relative, deputies were called at the Johns residence. When they arrived Jack had been found shot, deceased inside the home. “What’s going on?” Chretien asked a deputy when passing through.

Hope Johns

Hope Johns

Photo courtesy Lansing CityPulse (cq) 
 Jack and Hope Johns

Photo courtesy Lansing CityPulse (cq) Jack and Hope Johns

To everyone else their love seemed strong, everlasting.

But on Tuesday, friends and neighbors were forced to stomach reality and ask a question that was hard to even verbalize. How did someone they described as a gentle, patient friend come to shoot and kill her longtime husband inside the East Naples home where they had come to spend their better years?

“This is a woman who, God, was an angel, and she loved her husband,” friend Marie Rotunda said. “It’s like so shocking, so stunning and so painful.”

On Monday night, Collier deputies found the body of Jack N. Johns, 72, at his Provincetown Drive home in the Glen Eagle Golf & Country Club in East Naples. His wife, Helen Hope Johns, 68, who goes by Hope, is accused of delivering the fatal gunshot and faces a charge of second-degree murder.

Deputies said Hope Johns called the Sheriff’s Office about a “domestic disturbance” shortly before 11 p.m. When they arrived, she told them “he’s dead,” leaving them to find a handgun on a hospital-style bed in the living room near her husband’s body, an arrest report said.

Detectives also found bullet holes in a television and a china cabinet, and noted a shattered mirrored table top and a broken wineglass as signs of a struggle.

Hope Johns declined to speak with deputies after her arrest, requesting an attorney. She asked responders several times to draw her blood to test for anything in her system, an arrest report said.

Friends said Jack Johns had suffered from complications with diabetes for at least a decade, including a wound on his foot that caused him pain and wouldn’t heal. He was released from the hospital Friday after having it worked on. Doctors were debating whether to amputate it, according to those close to the couple.

Despite a foot injury that left him largely wheelchair-bound, those who knew him said Jack Johns powered through the pain. At an anniversary party with friends several years ago, he stood up on his medical boot and danced with his wife.

“It brought tears to everybody’s eyes,” said Rotunda, the couple’s friend.

As her husband’s primary caregiver, Hope Johns would often take him to local concerts and plays, sometimes loading Jack and his wheelchair in and out of their car multiple times a day, Rotunda said.

“Hope was a tremendous caregiver to him. He was sick for years and years and years,” she said. “Nobody’s been more loving to him and better to him. She was a saint, an absolute saint.”

Before the couple bought their home in Glen Eagle in 1998, they owned a disco joint and a bowling alley in East Lansing, Mich., home to Michigan State University. The Bus Stop nightclub opened in 1978 and hosted bands such as the Temptations and Hall and Oates before it closed in 1988, friends recalled.

The two were Catholics who hosted Sunday brunches and flew the American flag every day in their front yard, neighbors and friends said. Rotunda said she would meet Hope and Jack for karaoke on Wednesday nights at the Glen Eagle clubhouse, as recently as a few weeks ago. The two were music fans, and their circle of friends included local vocal duo Manhattan Connection and singer Johnny T, formerly of the New York-based doo-wop group The Mystics.

The couple had tickets to see Johnny T’s performance Monday at the Sugden Community Theater but had to give them away at the last minute because Jack wasn’t feeling well, said John “Johnny T.” Tarangelo.

Those close to the couple drew blanks when trying to explain the shooting. Some neighbors suggested a possible mercy killing.

“My impression is it was the last straw,” said neighbor Donald Miller.

Another neighbor, Wayne Dahlstrom, called the couple’s relationship “very loving, caring.”

“Everyone knew the burden that she had and that she was trying to work through it,” he said. “It’s a dead-end street, and it’s just a matter of how far you go down it.”

But other longtime friends dismissed the theory.

Ron Rapacciuolo said he talked to Jack Johns over the weekend after his release from the hospital. Johns said he was feeling fine — they had given him medicine to help with the pain — and he said his wife was hanging in there, too.

“It was unbelievable how much pain this guy’s been through — this wasn’t one of those times. He was going to get through it and make that foot well again,” Rapacciuolo said. “I don’t believe any of that euthanasia thing at all. I don’t think there’s any truth to that.”

Tarangelo expressed sympathy for the couple’s four children, who live out of state, and for Hope Johns.

“If you shoot somebody, you should face the consequences, but I hope they take it soft on her,” he said. “She’s been through a lot.”

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