But however idyllic the outward appearances, the couple struggled in recent months. On Friday night, for reasons that remain a mystery, Allen Myron killed his wife's parents and then took his own life.

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Allen and Sara Myron lived in a half-million-dollar home in one of the state’s most scenic outposts. He worked as a sheriff’s deputy, a job he’d embraced in midlife in order to make a difference. She ran her own business as a personal chef and found joy in traveling the country, finding ways to help people in need. Together, the Myrons attended church and performed missionary work. Together, they raised four children.

But however idyllic the outward appearances, the couple struggled in recent months. On Friday night, for reasons that remain a mystery, Allen Myron killed his wife’s parents and then took his own life.

The three deaths at the hands of a sheriff’s deputy add to a string of law-enforcement tragedies for Pierce County, where five officers were killed in the line of duty in November and December.

Myron, 49, ended a standoff with a Tacoma police SWAT team by shooting himself Friday night inside his home in Gig Harbor. Earlier that evening, he fatally shot his in-laws, Monty Edward Multanen, 70, and his wife, Sue, 68.

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Monty and Sue Multanen lived in Vancouver, where they were retired. Monty had been a professional educator in Oregon and Washington, while Sue once worked as a nurse.

For many people who knew the Myrons, nothing in the family’s background provided even a semblance of an explanation for the shootings.

“We’ve just been sitting around with our mouths hanging open all day,” said Rob Huyck, a member of Fox Island Alliance Church, which the Myrons attended.

On Saturday, law-enforcement officials and friends described Allen Myron as a personable man who tended to keep his personal life private. But in a series of online postings, his wife Sara alluded to troubles. Six months ago, she wrote: “The biggest stress in my life right now is that my marriage is crumbling around me. Nearly 24 years and at a standstill. Many misunderstandings, emotional abuse, no support of my efforts to lose weight.”

On the Internet — on publicly accessible Web sites — Sara Myron often shared details about herself and her family. But the posting in November was a rare reference to her marriage and the struggles she was having with her husband.

The couple appeared to be facing trouble from numerous directions. Allen Myron had missed months of work due to a back injury suffered on the job. Debra Lane, a friend of Sara Myron, said Allen seemed depressed by his health problems and by the recent deaths of four Lakewood police officers and Pierce County sheriff’s Deputy Kent Mundell Jr. “From what I knew of Allen, he was a stand-up citizen,” Lane said. “There was no indication that anything like this would happen. I think it was a case of depression that got out of hand.”

Wife described struggles

The family was suffering from financial stress to the point that Sara Myron’s father was helping with money, according to one relative.

And Sara had personal struggles that had placed her at odds with her husband. She was determined to lose weight — and was frustrated by her husband’s lack of encouragement.

In her November online posting, Sara wrote: “In fact, I found one of my ‘before’ photos (from about 2 months ago) on his laptop — skewed like a funhouse mirror, then a derogatory comment below it. Hurts so much but at the same time I want to work things out.”

Sara took comfort in the support she received from others on fitness Web sites, but her husband believed the sites were “scams,” she wrote.

“I spoke up last night, but it was frustrating,” Sara wrote in November. “I don’t want to be disrespectful, but need to share some of the hurt that I am going through. I long for a marriage that is filled with love and encouragement.

“So, I am on this journey alone, at home.”

Two months later, in January, Sara posted a message that suggested little improvement in their relationship: “2009 was a very tough year. Our family has been fractured in many ways. My marriage is rocky (we are working on it).”

She described some of the family’s struggles, along with the difficulties presented by Allen Myron missing so much work due to disability. “We are trying to dig our way out of the hole that is consuming us.”

The couple had two sons and two daughters, between the ages of 15 and 22. Their 15-year-old daughter was in the house with her father and grandparents the night of the shootings. Myron allowed his daughter and a friend of hers to leave the home before he killed himself.

“Superior” deputy

Allen and Sara Myron did missionary work in such countries as Mexico, Jamaica and Nicaragua, according to friends and published reports.

Allen Myron earned more than $70,000 as a sheriff’s deputy, a job he’d held for about 11 years. In 2007, the department honored him with a Medal of Merit.

He also supplemented his income by working three-hour shifts on many weekends for a citizens patrol on Fox Island, a job that paid $45 an hour.

The head of the citizens patrol, Stan Weston, said Saturday: “I know the difference between a good deputy and a superior one — and he was definitely a superior one.”

Myron carried a gun everywhere, even in church, Weston said. The deputy joked about once greeting a date of his daughter’s while being armed with four guns.

Several weapons found

When investigators went into the Myron home early Saturday morning, they found several weapons throughout the house and in the bedroom where Myron had barricaded himself, said Detective Gretchen Aguirre of the Tacoma Police Department, which is leading the investigation.

After being shot at about 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sue Multanen crawled out of the house to a wooded area and called 911. She later died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. As SWAT teams surrounded the house on 58th Street Northwest, Myron spoke with police negotiators by phone. Around 10 p.m., officers outside heard a gunshot, Aguirre said. It took SWAT officers some time to clear the house because they didn’t know at the time Myron had killed himself; they discovered his body around 2 a.m., she said. Monty Multanen’s body also was found inside.

Sara Myron and three of her children were not home at the time of the shootings.

At the time the standoff occurred, about 20 members of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department were in Washington, D.C., for an annual memorial to law-enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Sheriff Paul Pastor and others were there to pay tribute to Mundell, who was fatally shot in December while responding to a domestic-violence call outside Eatonville.

On Friday night, a contingent of the officers from Pierce County were at a restaurant with Mundell’s family, celebrating his daughter Kristen’s 17th birthday, “when the phone calls started coming in,” said Lt. Cyndie Fajardo, president of the Pierce County Deputy Sheriff’s Independent Guild.

Fajardo said Saturday she now worries Myron’s actions could mar the relationship between the community and her agency.

“The rest of us will carry his actions by the fact we all wear the badge,” Fajardo said. “How do you explain that to the community? We’re expected to be the ultimate protectors of the law, and he turns himself into a murderer.”

Fajardo said that as far as she knows, Myron had not been disciplined for misconduct while he was a sheriff’s deputy.

“Allen kept to himself a lot,” she said. “He was always a personable guy.”

Fajardo said guild members will do whatever they can to help Sara Myron and her children.

Slain man “very gentle”

Monty Multanen was an accomplished educator who worked as director of vocational education for the Oregon Office of Education, before moving on to become the career and technical-education director for Edmonds School District. He and his wife later moved to Vancouver, Wash., and he served six years as dean of vocational education at Lower Columbia College, according to the college’s president, Jim McLaughlin.

“He was just a wonderful guy. A very gentle man,” McLaughlin said. “I don’t think I ever heard him raise his voice.”

Monty Multanen’s brother, Gary, said Monty was “a giving kind of guy,” and had been helping his daughter’s family financially.

“The family was reasonably close, and there was never any indication at family gatherings that there was any problem,” said Gary, who lives in Boise.

Ken Creek, a neighbor of the Multanens, said Monty worked hard on his property and had recently constructed a bocce ball court.

“He had a wonderful garden, really beautiful roses,” Creek said. “He was always pleasant to talk to.”

Seattle Times staff reporters Christine Clarridge, Mike Carter, Sara Jean Green, Linda Shaw, Ken Armstrong and Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.

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