“Mounting health problems” led to Jacobs’ murder-suicide

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Mark Jacobs says “mounting health problems” left his father Irwin Jacobs “reflective about his fate” in the weeks before he killed his wife and himself on April 10.

Earlier this week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune interviewed the Jacobs’ son, who said his father had recently stopped driving because of seizures. Irwin had also been “talking more about his mortality” in recent months, he said. His mother Alexandra Jacobs, 77, had dementia and orthopedic problems.

The deaths came as a shock to family and friends, said Jacobs, but he doesn’t want his father to be remembered only for the murder-suicide. “If our lives are 300-page books, this was page 300,” the son said. “There was a horrible tragedy, (but) there are 299 other pages in their lives other than this tragedy.”

Among family and friends, “there is some anger that he ended things this way,” Jacobs said, adding. “I feel compassion and sadness that he was suffering so much and covered it up to all of us closest to him.”

Irwin Jacobs had a heart attack in the past year and had a stent and a defibrillator implanted. He also had diabetes. Alexandra Jacobs’ dementia was taking an increasing toll on her cognitive abilities and she used a wheelchair.

In the months before his death, Jacobs had seizures while driving. A week before the shootings, he left for his office but failed to arrive. They found Jacobs “passed out” on the side of the road. “He called me and said how sorry he was and was angry at himself,” the son recalled. “He was beating himself up for it.”

A nurse hired to care for Alexandra Jacobs found the couple, who had been married 57 years, dead in their bedroom. Irwin had left notes at the bottom of the stairs apologizing to the family.

“The gist of the letters is how … it would be so difficult for us to understand (his decision to kill himself and their mother) and that he hopes we would forgive him,” Mark Jacobs said. “In his mind, he couldn’t leave her behind. He had to have her with him.”

Murder-suicides involving caregivers and their partners often happen because of multiple factors, said Dan Reidenberg of SAVE, a national suicide prevention organization based in Minnesota. It’s not just because the caregivers “couldn’t take” the responsibilities any longer.

While the stress of caregiving plays a role, so does the loss of long-term companionship as a loved one suffers dementia. “All murder-suicides tend to involve more than just one thing that causes them,” he told the paper.

Mark Jacobs runs J.R. Watkins, maker of soaps and other household products that are sold around the country. He also oversees other Jacobs-owned ventures, including Carver-Marquis Yachts, the FLW fishing league and Jacobs Trading Co., a retailer specializing in liquidation of merchandise.

“The businesses are strong,” Jacobs told the paper. “We have a lot of really good people in our businesses running them.” 

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