PORTAGE | A Portage woman found dead in her estranged husband's Knox home last week went there because he told her he was sick, her sister said.
But authorities believe Kimberly Eidman Chavez, 50, was killed by her estranged husband, who then carjacked three vehicles, led police on a chase, lost control of a truck and shot himself once as officers closed in.
Authorities haven't said yet how Eidman Chavez died. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday, Starke County Coroner Kris Rannells said.
Gary Chavez, 57, remained in critical condition Sunday at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., a hospital spokesman said.
Eidman Chavez went to Knox to take her estranged husband to the hospital for a lung problem, said Sandy Hodges, Eidman Chavez's sister.
It wasn't the first time Chavez tricked his estranged wife into meeting him, Hodges said.
Chavez had been hospitalized for a lung problem at one point and often used his condition to persuade Eidman Chavez to meet him, she said. Eidman Chavez was always there for him, she said.
"He tricked her right up until the end," Hodges said.
Before they separated about three years ago, the Chavezes lived next door to Hodges and her husband, Mike, in Portage. The Chavezes had been together about 20 years, she said.
Chavez was controlling, possessive and abusive toward his estranged wife, Hodges said Sunday as she and her husband stood on their front porch.
"She sat here with me a few times and said she thought he was going to kill her," she said. "And he did."
He had refused to grant his estranged wife a divorce, she said.
"He couldn't let her go," Mike Hodges said.
Indiana State Police said Chavez left his home Friday in a personal vehicle and carjacked two other vehicles in two locations in Starke County. He drove the second vehicle, a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee, west on Ind. 8 until it broke down in front of a home in the 200 block of West Ind. 8 in Porter County, police said.
Two people leaving the home in a 1988 GMC Sierra pickup truck stopped to help him, and Chavez implied he had a weapon and stole the Sierra, police said.
The two people were not hurt and called 911 about 4 p.m. Hebron police saw the Sierra and began a pursuit, which ended when Chavez drove north on the ramp from southbound I-65 to 109th Avenue in Crown Point and lost control while trying to make a U-turn, police said.
As officers closed in, Chavez shot himself once, police said.
Hodges said after her sister separated from Chavez, he remained a part of their family and had showered at her mother's home just days before her sister's death.
"He acted like he was part of the family up until he destroyed the entire family," Hodges said.
Eidman Chavez was a wonderful person, she said.
"Her grandchildren adored her," she said. "They called her Grandma Kimmy."
She had many friends, loved riding her Harley-Davidson motorcycle and enjoyed the beach, Mike Hodges said.
"Back when we were kids, we would go on canoe trips," he said. "She loved the outdoors."
Eidman Chavez worked with another sister, Dawn, at the office of Dr. Fred Fedorchak.
Mike Hodges said the family is in pain but pulling together.
"We don't understand why Gary took her away from all of us," Sandy Hodges said. "He not only murdered her but he murdered all of us inside."
It was unclear Sunday whether Chavez had been charged in his estranged wife's death. An investigator for the Starke County Sheriff's Department was unavailable for comment Sunday.
Funeral services for Eidman Chavez have not yet been planned, the Hodges said.