Elderly Seabrook couple found dead mourned by neighbors

loberle@beaufortgazette.comApril 11, 2014 

Their neighbors in Seabrook described them as a lovely British couple who loved life and loved others.

So as the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office searches for clues in what it says is an apparent murder-suicide of Brian Chinn, 81, and his wife, Jeanette Chinn, 80, their friends and family also search for answers.

"They were such a very lovely couple. We're just in shock," neighbor Gail Clark said. "I know he was struggling with early stage dementia, and it was starting to frustrate him, but that's all."

The Chinns were found dead with gunshot wounds at about 7 p.m. Thursday in their home at 175 Brown's Island Road in the northern Beaufort County community. Neighbors had been called by the couple's son to perform a welfare check on them after he had been unable to contact them for several days, according to a Sheriff's Office news release issued Friday.

Neighbors said they had not seen the couple in several days.

The cause of death has not been determined, pending an autopsy, the release said.

"I wish they wouldn't say 'murder-suicide,' even if that's technically what it was," Clark said, her eyes welling up with tears. "I know Bri would have never. He was a devoted husband. She was a devoted wife.

"Aging is just so scary."

Clark said the Chinns enjoyed hosting neighbors in their home. They were the first to buy chocolates, crafts or anything from a catalog a child was selling. And they treated others' grandchildren as if they were their own.

Jeanette Chinn talked to Clark recently about having a party for Clark's sister, Drema Brantley, whose husband died in January.

The Chinns were known for doing everything together -- exercising at the Wardle Family YMCA, birdwatching on their back porch and walking their dog, Neat, who also was found dead with a gunshot wound Thursday.

The Chinns moved to Seabrook 11 years ago to be closer to the beach, according to Clark. Clark said the neighborhood families are a close-knit group that now shares a deep sense of loss.

"Those of us who knew them well are just devastated," Clark said. "We're all really close, so we feel like we failed them."

Family members declined to comment and asked for privacy.

Follow reporter Laura Oberle at twitter.com/IPBG_Laura.

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