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‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Case Ends in Shootout, Apparent Suicide

March 21, 1991 GMT

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) _ Hours after his case was profiled on national television, a man wanted for killing his wife in Michigan apparently shot himself to death during a shootout with Mississippi police.

″He chose to fight it out, but in the end he took his own life,″ said Warren County Sheriff Paul Barrett. ″He died with his pistol in his hand, his thumb on the trigger, and $16,000 in his pocket. And only a few hours earlier they had told his story on the ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ television program.″

Dennis DePue was wanted in Branch County, Mich., for the abduction and killing of his wife last Easter Sunday in Algansee township, near the Michigan-Indiana line.

His case was profiled Wednesday night on NBC-TV’s ″Unsolved Mysteries.″

Before dawn Thursday, Mississippi authorities were notified that Louisiana police were in pursuit of a van with a stolen Texas tag. They said the driver refused orders to stop.

Mississippi police and deputies set up a roadblock at the end of the Interstate 20 bridge over the Mississippi River, Barrett said. The sheriff said he thought about the recent videotaped police beating of a motorist in Los Angeles, and told his deputies ″not to shoot him but to shoot out the tires on his van.″

″He drove right through the roadblock, but officers managed to shoot out a tire,″ the sheriff said. ″We then shot out another tire, and he kept going.″ He said the van turned off the interstate and sped down several Vicksburg streets with officers close behind.

At one point, Barrett said, the driver fired two shots through the windshield of a patrol car, and then one or more shots at another officer.

After that, Barrett said, he pulled up behind the van and fired his machine gun into the rear of the vehicle as other officers exchanged fire with the driver. But he said the van was full of clothes and boxes that insulated the driver from the bullets.

Officers rushed the van when the shooting stopped, and opened the driver’s side door to find DePue dead ″with the .357 in his left hand and his thumb on the trigger,″ Barrett said.

Branch County Sheriff Ted Gordon said positive identification would be made as soon as Mississippi authorities received DePue’s fingerprint and dental records.

Barrett said a preliminary examination indicated DePue had died of a bullet wound that entered his mouth and came out the back of his head.

″That means it was a suicide because our bullets would not have gone in that direction,″ he said.

The parents of DePue’s wife, Marilynn, expressed relief over DePue’s death.

″It has been an awful year for us,″ said the victim’s father, Dallas McClenahen, in a telephone interview from their Detroit home. ″Boy, am I glad he’s gone.″

″We are delighted Dennis is gone,″ added his wife, who declined to give her first name. She said DePue was ″just an oddball all the way around. He never abused the family, but he never talked. He was very strange toward the end.″

Barrett said an autopsy would be performed and the body would be turned over to DePue’s relatives by the weekend.

The sheriff said officers inspecting the van had found dried blood stains on the passenger’s side of the vehicle and ″it was not his blood. We have called the state Crime Laboratory to determine if it possibly was his wife’s blood.″

″My wife and I had watched the TV program about him, and the next morning I am with other officers firing into his van,″ Barrett said. ″I’d say that’s not going to happen every day.″