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Couple’s deaths attributed to natural causes

Autopsies were performed over the weekend on an elderly couple after they were discovered deceased outside their rural home in the 900 block of Highway 32 on Thursday evening.

The St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department was investigating the deaths of Darrell J. Rickman and Marjorie Rickman and treating the area where they were found as a crime scene until it could determined otherwise.

St. Francois County Sheriff’s Lt. Greg Armstrong said it was determined there was no foul play and nothing was found on either of the bodies indicating a crime had been committed.

“It looks like it will be (ruled) a natural death on both of them,” Armstrong said. “It’s a little odd, but I am sure the heat played a factor in it as well. They both had heart disease, his was a little more advanced that hers … but they both had bad hearts.”

St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock said in an earlier interview that they were treating it as a criminal investigation initially because they couldn’t go back to collect evidence once the crime scene was tainted by weather or human activity.

He explained that the couple was discovered at 6:10 p.m. approximately 200 feet from their home near a four-wheeler and it appeared they had been loading mulch and soil bags.

He felt at the time that nothing appeared out of the ordinary and the home didn’t looked disturbed. He explained the couple were both around 90 years old and they weren’t far from each other on the ground.

He said a neighbor went over to check on them and found them outside. The neighbor’s house wasn’t too far from theirs and the couple’s son came out from Columbia once receiving the news.

The autopsy was scheduled for Saturday morning. In an earlier interview St. Francois County Coroner Jim Coplin said there were no signs of trauma on the bodies, but he felt it was just unusual that they both died at the same time in the same place. Coplin said they were out there for a short period of time. They were last seen around 11 a.m. that morning and were found before 7 p.m.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or

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