The couple was found dead in their Fogelsville home at 1280 Church St. on Thursday morning. Charles Snelling died of a gunshot wound, the Lehigh County coroner has ruled. His wife's cause of death is still under investigation.
The college sweethearts were each 81. They are survived by five children and 11 grandchildren.
The murder-suicide follows the deteriorating health of Adrienne, an accomplished fine arts photographer diagnosed with Alzheimer's six years ago. Charles Snelling wrote a poignant biographical column for the New York Times in 2011 describing the couple's caregiver role reversal during his wife's illness.
The Snelling family issued a statement saying it believes Charles acted out of "deep devotion and profound love."
The Snelling case is drawing attention to the anguish faced by families of Alzheimer's patients - even those, like Snelling, who are wealthy enough to afford private nursing care and who have a well-established support system of family and friends, the Morning Call reports.
The death of Charles Snelling is being noted in the greater Washington, D.C., area because of his powerful role as former chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. President George H.W. Bush nominated Snelling to the post. The authority controls both Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
And in Vermont, Snelling's passing is news because his late brother, Richard, was governor of the state in the mid 1970s.
Snelling was born into a successful family, graduated from Lehigh University and became an inventor and entrepreneur.
Reflecting on the couple's tragic end, some friends of the Snellings now think an anniversary dinner they attended recently may have been a farewell celebration.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.