Md. Man Planned Funeral, Set House on Fire, Shot Himself

Oct. 18--A Middletown man who set his house on fire and fatally shot himself had planned his funeral for close to a month while going through a divorce, investigators said Thursday.

Firefighters and sheriff's deputies found John R. Libeau, 61, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head outside his burning home on Pete Wiles Road early Wednesday. He was flown to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore in critical condition, but was taken off life support Wednesday night, said Cpl. David Dewees of the Frederick County Sheriff's Office.

"This wasn't something he decided to do at the last minute," he said.

Dewees said Libeau had gone to Donald B. Thompson Funeral Home in Middletown before the fire and suicide and paid for his funeral. He also started to give away his belongings.

"After he wrote a check to the funeral home, he made mentions about making it easy," Dewees said.

Libeau falsely told funeral home staff he had a terminal illness and to "expect a call in about 30 days."

Dewees said the sheriff's office believes Libeau did suffer from some form of mental illness but was not terminally ill.

Investigators have linked the fire and suicide to Libeau's divorce, which was finalized Tuesday.

Further investigation determined Libeau had poured gasoline throughout his home, Dewees said.

Emergency responders found Libeau under a blanket, reclining in a pool chair that faced the house.

Red spray paint found on the swimming pool and back side of the two-story brick house read "NO CHEATERS," "PAY YOUR BILLS" and "NO LIARS."

Dewees said an arson detection dog came to the house and detected gasoline on Libeau's clothing, indicating that he had doused the house in gasoline.

"There were not any burns in his body, leading us to believe he could have lit a roll of paper towels on fire and thrown it into the house," he said.

Neighbor Barry Bauer said Libeau's actions were shocking and unexpected, though he did say Libeau was struggling with the divorce.

"He was one of the nicest people we know," said Bauer, who noticed flames coming from Libeau's home early Wednesday. "Any way you look at it, it's just sad."

The home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. It was deemed a total loss, said sheriff's office Detective Ted Nee.

Bauer said Libeau's ex-wife was supposed to take possession of the house as a result of the divorce.

Libeau's ex-wife, Jacqueline Libeau, was accounted for and detectives have been in touch with her.

She could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Dewees said that if Libeau had survived the shooting, he would have been charged with arson.

The investigation is ongoing to determine if Libeau had been under the influence of any substances at the time of his suicide.

Follow Daniel J. Gross on Twitter: @DanielJGross.

Copyright 2013 - The Frederick News-Post, Md.