WEST BOYLSTON — It was a spot that Robert Chisholm knew well: The old senior center in West Boylston, where he’d come to countless meetings, talked with friends, and dreamed of a new senior center and the billiards room that might go inside it.
And he likely knew that, early on a Monday afternoon, the parking lot would be empty. Private. Familiar.
It was there, in the back of 127 Hartwell Street, that police found Chisholm, 78, and his wife, Dolores, 79, at around 2:30 p.m. Monday. Both had been shot. Dolores was dead; Robert died at the hospital. Investigators found letters at the home they shared.
Both had suffered from health problems, said Barur Rajeshkumar, a friend of Robert’s, but recently, Dolores had been getting worse and worse. It was her heart, Rajeshkumar said. Robert was driving her to the hospital almost every day.
“She was going through a lot of pain, a lot of suffering,” said Rajeshkumar. “He couldn’t take it.”
Officials have not said who fired the shots that killed the Chisholms, though Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said Monday that there was no risk to the general public.
Family members of Robert and Dolores Chisholm could not be reached for comment Tuesday, or declined to speak.
Neighbors at the complex on Hillside Village Drive where they lived were shocked to learn that the lovely couple had died so violently. Robert was a fixture in his yard, always filling his bird feeders. He loved wood working. Dolores was beautiful, said one neighbor, and very kind. They seemed to have a big, loving family.
“I just talked to him the other day,” said the neighbor, who gave his name only as Kach. “Just shooting the breeze.”
Another neighbor, who declined to give her name, said Robert often drove his wife to medical appointments.
“Very nice people,” the woman said. “As far as I could see, they were just a normal, married couple.”
Robert Chisholm had made and installed small handrails on other residents’ porches to give them something to hold on to as they walked out their front doors, neighbors said.
Robert Chisholm was active in town government, officials said, serving as an appointed board member for the Facilities Implementation and Strategic Planning Committee. He had served on the Council on Aging for a short time and still came to the meetings. He was passionate about getting the new senior center built, and wanted to put in a billiard room for tournaments.
Chisholm had recently run for Board of Selectmen, but local news accounts say he withdrew his candidacy in May.
Rajeshkumar, who is a selectman in West Boylston and has known Robert Chisholm for about three years, said he had just spoken to his friend on Sunday. Rajeshkumar spoke as a friend and not in his capacity as a town official. He said that Sunday, he heard through another mutual friend that Chisholm and his wife weren’t doing well, so he gave him a call.
“How are you doing? How is Dolores?” Rajeshkumar asked his normally talkative friend. But Chisholm was subdued. Dolores was not good, Chisholm told Rajeshkumar.
Rajeshkumar invited Chisholm out for coffee, but his friend declined. Usually their conversations lasted 10, 15, 20 minutes, Rajeshkumar said — but on Sunday, Chisholm hung up quickly.
Still, he didn’t think anything was seriously amiss. He had seen Chisholm on Thursday, at a meeting where the new senior center was discussed. Chisholm walked with a cane, and had beaten back his own health scare in the past, but Rajeshkumar thought he seemed fine Thursday, too.
They were devoted to each other, Rajeshkumar said. They loved to get dinner at The Manor, he said, and when Dolores was feeling well enough, she would come to some meetings with her husband.
On Tuesday, two workers, Mark Houghton Jr. and Alexzandra Alcock, who were clearing a wooded area bordering the lot of the old senior center, where the Chisholms were found, said they had been there the day before, working with loud equipment. They never heard the gunshots, but said it must have happened quickly, because the couple had not been there when workers last glimpsed the lot around 2 p.m.
They did see the police roll up. When Houghton walked towards the commotion, he said he could see paramedics pulling a man from the car. A woman’s body remained inside, slumped forward in the passenger seat with her head bowed.Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Evan Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.