When Jeanette Colter parked her new Toyota Avalon in a parking lot several months ago and forgot to turn the engine off, family members warned her of the dangers of the new keyless, quiet-running vehicle.
On Friday, those fears turned horribly real when police say she apparently parked her car in the family’s garage and forgot to turn it off.
A friend who noticed that Jeanette and David Colter didn’t show up for their daily bridge game found the couple dead and their Kings Isle home filled with carbon monoxide, which police believe killed the couple quietly as they slept.
Son-in-law Terry Wilson said his family was still in shock Friday night.
“That car was so quiet, it was hard to tell if it was running or not,” said Wilson, who had to relay the grim news to his wife over the the phone Friday. “You don’t even need a key to start it. You just push a button to turn it off and on.”
Although Wilson and his wife, Vickie Colter, have stayed in Port St. Lucie seasonally for years, they decided to move here full-time a few months ago to be near her aging parents. Wilson bought a house nearby in the Cascades in St. Lucie West, and Vickie Colter planned to retire from her job in Maryland and join him in two months.
Despite their age – Jeanette was 70 and David was 89 – the couple thrived on daily bridge games, church trips and bus excursions with friends and neighbors from Kings Isle, Wilson said. The pair returned from a church-sponsored trip to Savannah, Ga., only Wednesday, and two weeks ago they boarded a bus to see Johnny Mathis in West Palm Beach.
Jeanette Colter drove the couple to the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee every year to enjoy the scenery, her son-in-law said.
David Colter retired from the Army as a colonel after 30 years, having served in Vietnam and Korea, and helped form a veterans association at Kings Isle. His wife was a bank vice president in Maryland before she retired.
The couple has three sons, a daughter and five grandchildren. Wilson said he’s making arrangements for a local memorial and burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Friends of the couple gathered around their home in a gated age- restricted community to mourn their loss Friday.
Bob Paternostro, president of the neighborhood bridge club, said David Colter was “the ultimate gentleman” and Jeanette Colter was “the life of the party.”
“They complemented each other well,” Paternostro said.
Officer Robert Vega, a police spokesman, said the couple appears to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Vega said friends told investigators that Jeanette Colter, the primary driver, had become forgetful lately. It appears she came home Thursday night and closed the garage door but did not turn off the car.
Wilson said Jeanette Colter collapsed in the kitchen, near the air-conditioning control, and may have suspected something was wrong.
David Colter, who had undergone heart bypass surgery, died in the bedroom.
St. Lucie Fire District Capt. Brian Blizzard said two rescue workers put on air packs to go inside the home on Northwest Tuscany Drive at about 12:30 p.m. Friday.
Police do not suspect foul play; the medical examiner’s office will determine the official cause of death.
Wilson, the son-in-law, said he’s not sure whether he and his wife can remain in Port St. Lucie after the tragedy.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do now,” said Wilson, who accepted a job as assistant vice president of a bank in Stuart recently. “When I saw the bodies, it hit me. They died peacefully, but that’s not much consolation.”