BEAR, Del. — The man who shot and killed an elderly Elkton couple on the grounds of a Delaware veterans cemetery earlier this month was killed by police gunfire during a shootout with officers that occurred shortly after he had opened fire on the victims, according to Delaware State Police.
DSP officials reported in a written update released Friday that the gunman, Sheldon C. Francis, 29, of Middletown, Del., died from gunshot wounds linked to rounds fired by members of the agency’s tactical team during the exchange of gunfire, after they and scores of other officers had surrounded Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery — where Francis fatally shot Paul C. Marino, 86, and his wife, Lidia, 85, at approximately 10:15 a.m. on May 8.
Investigators did not know if Francis had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound or from police gunshot wounds until earlier this week, after receiving autopsy results for Francis and completing a related follow-up investigation, police reported.
DSP officials included photos of a bullet-riddled armored law enforcement vehicle in that press release and explained that those pictures reflect the damage sustained from Francis’ gunfire during the shootout, which occurred at approximately noon on May 8, about two hours after Francis had opened fire on the Marino couple.
At approximately 11:08 a.m. that day, officers saw Francis running into a wooded area between the cemetery in the 2400 block of Chesapeake City Road, about a mile and a half east of Chesapeake City, and Brennan Boulevard in the Brennan Estates development, and they secured the area, police reported.
The shootout between Francis and the officers occurred at about 12:08 p.m., according to police officials, who further reported that the DSP Special Operations Response Team (SORT) had responded in the agency’s BearCat Armored Vehicle.
“Upon arriving to the location, the BearCat began immediately taking on a significant amount of gunshot rounds from Francis, resulting in an exchange of gunfire taking place between members of SORT and Francis. During the exchange of gunfire, Francis (suffered) a gunshot wound by the Delaware State Police, which resulted in his death. Francis was pronounced deceased at the scene,” a DSP spokesperson said, adding that troopers involved in the shooting incident were not injured.
The troopers involved in the shootout with Francis have been placed on administrative leave, in accordance with standard DSP protocol, police reported.
Not knowing Francis’ status and his exact whereabouts after the shootout, officers advanced cautiously and methodically, police said. At approximately 4 p.m. that day, some four hours after the shootout, officers found Francis’ body in a wooded area near the cemetery.
With the investigation continuing, it appears that Francis randomly opened fire on the Marino couple.
“As this investigation remains ongoing, there has been no motive determined at this time or evidence indicating Francis had any connection to the Marinos,” a DSP spokesman said.
The investigation by the Delaware State Police Homicide Unit “remains active and ongoing,” police reported. Anyone with information regarding the incident or a possible motive is asked to call 302-698-8557. Information also may be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333 or via the internet at http://www.delaware.crimestoppersweb.com.
Lidia Marino was pronounced dead at the scene of the shootings, police said. Her husband died from his gunshot wound or wounds at Christiana Hospital in Delaware on May 9, a day after the shootings, police added.
The slain couple’s 60-year-old twin sons, Paul Jr. and Ray Marino, both of Elkton, told the Cecil Whig earlier this month that their parents were fatally shot while visiting the grave of their son, Anthony Marino, who, at age 54, died on March 15, 2017, and that their parents visited Anthony’s grave almost daily.
During the past three years, the Marino couple had visited Anthony’s grave – in the same burial plot where Paul and Lidia Marino are now laid to rest – approximately 1,000 times, they estimated.
“It was like a regimen. Mom and Dad visited my brother’s grave every single day, without fail, unless there was inclement weather. They usually went there in the morning,” Ray told the Cecil Whig during a May 13 interview.
The sons do not know if their parents were able to pay one last visit to Anthony’s grave before they were fatally shot.
“They were shot halfway between the cemetery entrance and Anthony’s burial plot, so we don’t know if they were coming or going,” Ray said.
The man who killed the twin brothers’ parents reportedly possessed a scoped rifle at the time but, according to information that DSP investigators provided the family, Francis apparently shot them with a handgun at relatively close range.
“He came up behind them, pulled out a handgun and did his thing. He shot our dad in the back of the head and then he shot our mom,” Ray outlined. “We don’t know if he shot our mom first in front of our dad or if he shot our dad first in front of our mom. We don’t even know if they saw him.”
Relaying information supplied to them by DSP investigators, the twin brothers also told the Cecil Whig that detectives had combed the contents of Francis’ cell phone and other devices, searching for possible clues as to why he opened fire on the Marino couple.
DSP officials are continuing their investigation to determine a motive for the fatal shootings of Paul and Lidia Marino.