Brian Jones shot his wife Patricia Whitney-Jones once before turning the semi-automatic handgun on himself three times, including once in the head.

Several notes left by the couple cited the wife’s severe ongoing medical problems, as well as concerns that they could not afford to pay for health care.

Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a home in Ferndale, Washington, on Wednesday morning after a 77-year-old man called 911 and told the dispatcher he was going to kill himself.

He said he had prepared a note for the sheriff which contained information and instructions. In spite of the operator’s efforts to keep him on the line, Mr Jones is then said to have told the operator, “we will be in the front bedroom”, before disconnecting the call.

Police arrived 15 minutes later and tried to intervene with a crisis negotiator. But it was too late. Officials used a robo mounted camera to look inside the home and found the bodies of Brian and Patricia lying together.

Several notes were left in the home “citing severe ongoing medical problems with the wife and expressing concerns that the couple did not have sufficient resources to pay for medical care”, according to the sheriff’s statement.

It is very tragic that one of our senior citizens would find himself in such desperate circumstances where he felt murder and suicide were the only options. Help is always available with a call to 911,”

Multiple firearms were found in the home. The couples two dogs were taken to an animal shelter.

Sherrie Schulteis, a neighbour of the couple, said she often spoke to Mr Jones and watched out for each other’s homes but was totally unaware about the extent to which he was struggling mentally and financially.

“[Mr Jones and I] were always waving and talking about our yards or our flowers,” she told The Lynden Tribune. “It’s a little tiny community where we all know each other, but we don’t really know each other.”

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.