Husband kills himself days after breakthrough in wife’s 25-year-old disappearance

A man whose wife disappeared in 1998 has died by suicide just as the cold case was getting renewed attention.

Jim Sweeten, 79, called police in Texas to say that he was going to take his own life. Law enforcement found him dead at his home at an RV park in Welasco, about five miles from the border with Mexico on Wednesday, according to Fox 23.

The authorities said he was found in a shed with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The discovery was made just two days after the disappearance of his wife, 25 years ago, was once again in the news as police found a barrel in a body of water close to the home in Oklahoma where they had lived until she disappeared.

Peggy Sweeten, a special education teacher, was 52 when she vanished.

The Delaware County Sheriff’s Office in Oklahoma wrote on Facebook that “Law enforcement returned to the former Sweeten home Monday this week to conduct an underwater search and retrieve a metal barrel that was discovered a few weeks ago and could possibly have been a burn barrel that was noticed to be missing around the same time as Peggy’s disappearance. No human remains were located. This is a cold case that has been under active investigation”.

When she vanished, Mr Sweeten claimed that she had left with a lover, but no evidence was found to support this theory, and he shortly stopped cooperating with the investigation.

He rejected efforts to conduct a property search or take part in a polygraph test.

When questioned in 2011, Mr Sweeten told officials that he thought “he should consult an attorney,” according to Valley Central.

A detective wrote in an application for a search warrant that Mr Sweeten “appeared to be deceptive and evasive” and he “appeared to be attempting to find out how far the investigation had progressed and what [the investigator] knows and what direction the investigation was headed”.

Police assumed that Ms Sweeten was dead as the years passed following her disappearance. She was last seen on 13 January 1998.

Police shared the worry with local media that, as the investigation progressed, Mr Sweeten might kill himself or flee to Mexico, according to Fox 23.

Mr Sweeten was a former Kansas superintendent who had been having an affair with a teacher from another district, according to the 2011 warrant. He filed for divorce just weeks after Ms Sweeten’s disappearance.

He claimed to police that when he got back from a conference, Ms Sweeten had left him a note to say that she was leaving him, but all her belongings, including her car, clothes, and personal mementos, were left behind. There was nothing indicating that she was planning to leave.

Mr Sweeten told law enforcement that his wife had met a man online, but she never used email and didn’t have an email address.