Pa. Couple Apparently Froze In Md. Farm Field

JEFFERSON, Md. (WJZ) — An elderly couple was found dead in a farm field in Frederick County, days after they were reported missing in Pennsylvania.

Mike Hellgren has more on how this tragedy happened.

Police say they died looking for help.  They also say that they had a history of being disoriented.  No foul play is suspected.

The search for 86-year-old Bill Fresch and his 79-year-old wife Betty came to a heartbreaking end.  Police found their bodies in a field in Frederick County.  Police say they became disoriented after they left their daughter’s home and drove almost 70 miles from Shippensburg, Pa., to Jefferson, Md.  Their car eventually got stuck.

“They left around 5:15.  They said they wanted to get home before it got too dark, and we have a thing that we do with one another where we always check in and say that we got home safely,” said their daughter Jo Rinehart.

“The car was not able to be driven out of the ravine it was in.  Again, it was just merely stuck there, there was no body damage.  However, when these folks got out, we believe they were trying to walk to a local residence or summon help of some sort,” said Cpl. Josh West.

Police found them outside their Honda Accord, but near each other.  They likely froze to death.

“From what we gather from speaking to the family, it’s not uncommon for some disorientation to take place.  They were clothed, they had coats on, they were about 30 yards apart,” West said.

The couple’s family scoured the area for days, never imagining their lives would end this way.

“I think within all of us, within ourselves, there’s a little dark.  We have dark times,” Rinehart said.

The Fresches did not have a cell phone.  They did own one, but they left it at home the day they disappeared.

More from Mike Hellgren
  • C Hettchen

    Oh no, this sounds like the missing parents of a friend of mine.

  • Doug

    Well,this is sad,indeed .
    I could see my mom doing such a thing.
    They we’re both confused and old.
    From what I’ve seen,growing old sucks.
    At least they had each other,for the final end.

  • Paul S

    Great Reporting WJZ. You never mention in your story where their home is located. Was it in Pensylvania near their daughter or was it 70 miles away where they were found???

    • Veronica

      See story title “PA Couple…”

  • Newman

    Why would you let your elderly parents with a history or being disoriented drive that far home by themselves? That’s just sad.

  • Tammy

    I agree with Newman why in the world would let them leave and drive that far alone something does not sound right. Its very sad that has happened two them.

  • Gary

    my condolenses to the family ,very sad

  • Wendy L Shores

    How very sad. Tragic story and something we all worry about with elderly parents. At least they were together when they died. Condolences to the family and to Newman, until you are in that position, it isn’t nice to judge anyone else. Most elderly parents are stubborn and ornery and will do what they want regardless of what you say. They like to maintain their independence.

  • T. Robertson

    I have to say that sometimes it is difficult to know when to stop someone from driving or when a little disorientation is something more. I have had situations in my life where an older family member started showing that they might almost be ready to stop driving….we have had the conversation and I am watching her driving skills very closely because one day I will have to take the keys….the family may have been almost ready to do it but just hadn’t made the final decision. Its an unfortunate situation.

  • Tammy

    Well Wendy I work with elderly and I know as an adult no matter how stubborn or ornery they may be I would not dare let them go get behind the wheel of a car and there not even my parents.If you had little kids would you let them drive just because they were ornery or stubborn? It just does not seem right im sorry I love my parents to death and I know if I thought something was wrong I would make sure I drove them where they needed to go.

  • Bonnie Sue Petry

    Nobody knows why we do what we do. I am a true believer that things happen because thats the way they are suppose to happen. We cant point fingers and put blame on anyone. Its just so sad it happened the way it did but that is the way God wanted it to happen. They passed away together. My prayers are that God didnt let them suffer!

  • tommy d

    no matter how u look at it its still sad my condolences to the family. at least they were together when they passed cause as it says when u get married till death do us part n in Gods eyes it was there time to move on to his world where they can b together again in Gods world!!

  • Carolyn

    oh my goodness…the family is grieving enough without people leaving negative comments here…no one knows exactly what the situation was unless they lived it and the media isn’t always correct…give the family your condolences instead of bad comments

    • Veronica

      AGREE – have a heart people

  • Mark

    I’ve lived in MD for six years now after being born and raised in East Texas. I know if the weather is bad and if there is a car stuck in the mud,,, STOP! Try and help!
    I question how many people drove past these folks? I feel for them and their family and wish I would have past their stuck car! Because, From what I’ve seen Marylander’s don’t care about anyone but themselves! SAD!
    Sorry for the Negative comment!!! Just being honest! And anyone that past their car and did nothing “live with it”
    GOD BLESS! I feel for the family and friends!

  • Khristyn

    Regardless of any of these negative comments that are placing blame on the family members of these two people, it happened; yes…and chances are they are already probably blaming themselves over this enough, as anyone does when someone they love and/or care about dies, so be respectful, if not to the family, atleast for the elderly couple because you are being disrespectful bashing their family members. What’s done is done and things can’t be changed, unfortunately. May God bless this couple and all of the loved ones they cherished.

  • Chan

    Something seems off about this story. 30 yards in the dark, while it is cold is a pretty far distance between the 2 of them. A man doesn’t just leave his wife 30 yards behind him, he would have her stay in the car before he did that. Previous posters are right, I would not dare have my relatives travel that far without following behind them as they drove. But this story is still open-ended. How did they just die by freezing to death? Wouldn’t they try to stay close to each other to keep themselves warm? I pray for the family as they mourn.

  • Cupcake

    What’s not right are your crazy comments. What about elderly and disoriented don’t you understand. The elderly couple most likely had a condition called sunny downing. That’s when confusion is increased after the sun goes down. In the evening night time hours. Second maybe she couldn’t keep up walking with him and in his confused state didn’t realize she was so far behind him or even knew she was behind. I’m almost certain he told her to stay in the car while he went for help and she maybe became worried and or confused and wondered off after him. Whatever the case God please watch over our elderly and comfort this poor grieving family in their hour of need.

  • Sue

    perhaps they died apart because ne probably went firs and couldn’t bare to see the other one lyng their dead.

    what is the matter with you people? Such a tragic thing and here you are judging the elderly couple for not dying next to each other and judging the family members for letting them drive only.

    this is what is wrong wih this country – no compassion.

    I feel so bad for the family – such a sad thing to lose family members and so sad that they will be playing over the “what ifs” in their head and envisionng the terrible last moments of their loved ones before they froze to death. SO SAD!

  • mike

    iif they wanted to leave before it got dark why leave at 515 when it is dark?? leave at 315 pm if yu wanna get home by dark !! what was the family thinkin!! suppose to be lookin out for them !! money is probabl;y involed sorry to say!!

    • erin

      what a jerk! you dont know this! i feel bad for family! its hard to take that privilage away from elderly people. Have a heart man!

  • RCrystal

    It’s just plain sad that they had to perish like this. YES, maybe they should not have been driving especially since they “had a history of being disoriented”. But I can’t help but feel that there is more to this than meets the eye. Condolences to the family for this devastating loss.

  • J Call

    I give my condolences to the Family and friends. I’m sure one of them was making a last effort to get help and that would explain the distance apart.
    May they rest in peace with God.

  • Collie

    They should not have been driving. Yes it’s sad this happened, and yes, elderly people can be stubborn. But they should not have been driving; they were a risk not only to themselves but to other drivers and passengers. The family should have notified their physican who would have reported the problem to the DMV who could evalute them. Sometimes families let this go because they don’t want to have to deal with the subsequent problem of transportation. But we have an obligation to protect our elders and our community; with a known history of dementia, they should not have been permitted to drive. Would you be sypathetic if they hit a van full of children who were killed? Or if they hit someeone you loved? Yes, it’s sad – but it should not have happened, because someone in the family should have intervened long before it got to this.

  • rockfist

    I guess the daughter really didn’t like her parents hanging around or they would have stayed over night to be safe. Now what are you going to do Jo, you won’t have your parents to abuse anymore.

    • shawna D

      you sound like you may be related to these people or know a part of the story that no one else does????

  • Mary

    When my dad turned 70 he had an accident due to poor judgement. I gave my dad a lot of credit because he wanted his independence and did not want to give up his freedom to drive. But, he came to the reality he had to give up driving because he did not want to put others at risk. Family members need to come to this realization and sometimes we have to step up and say, hey you should not drive. There are senior rides in different counties and I am not saying that there are resources out where they live but by golly, the children should have told them that driving is risky at their age. I think when drivers reach a certain age, drivers test should be mandated by MVA to determine if it is safe to drive. I will never forget an elderly driver who misjudged and drove his car into a crowd of people. This is dangerous. My sympathy to the family.

  • nancey

    I don’t really see how anyone is judging here. They are expressing their concerns about elderly people who get disoriented still being allowed to drive. Not only do you have to worry about that person’s safety but you should be concerned about putting others on the road in danger. I had to do it with my dad and mom. When I saw them getting confused, I had to explain to them that it was no longer safe for them to drive.. Yes, it puts a lot of work on me because now I have to drive them everywhere or get someone to do so when I work but at least I know they are safe, and so are other drivers. God bless this couple

  • nevada trust

    what a tragedy.

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