HOBART — Police found a woman and her estranged husband dead Sunday in a murder-suicide at her home, an official said.

Nicole Mendez, 40, and George E. Mendez, 51, were found after Hobart police were dispatched about 5:10 p.m. Sunday to a home in the 1200 block of West Seventh Place, Lt. James Gonzales said.

Two people met officers outside the home. They appeared upset and told officers their friend Nicole Mendez was inside.

Police found Nicole Mendez motionless and facedown on a bed and George Mendez unresponsive and seated with his back against a wall, Gonzales said.

"As detectives and crime scene investigators processed the crime scene, it became apparent that this was a murder-suicide and George Mendez was the aggressor," he said.

A handgun was recovered from the scene, he said.

Police suspect George Mendez shot Nicole Mendez and then turned the gun on himself between 2 and 3 a.m. Sunday. Their daughter was not home at the time, Gonzales said.

Police were still interviewing witnesses and working to establish a timeline.

A Hobart officer was present at autopsies conducted Monday by the Lake County coroner's office, he said.

The coroner's office determined Nicole Mendez died from multiple gunshot wounds in a homicide and George Mendez died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a suicide, police said.

A couple neighbors near the Mendez home described them Monday as a "normal family."

But one neighbor, who didn't want to be identified, said that all began to change several months ago as they couple's marriage fell apart.

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"Since they were having problems, it was real volatile," he said.

The neighbor said he had to call police after seeing George Mendez in a fight with another man in the street.

Hobart police responded to Nicole Mendez's home April 8, Gonzales said.

In that case, Nicole Mendez told officers that George Mendez arrived to drop off their daughter and began to batter her because she was in the company of another man.

The case was assigned to the Hobart Police Department's social worker, who attempted several times to follow up with Nicole Mendez. Social worker Rachelle Ellis last attempted contact by phone Friday, and the case remained open, Gonzales said.

A protection order for Nicole Mendez was issued March 9, but she later asked in court April 5 that it be rescinded, police said.

Gonzales said the Police Department funds the social worker position through a grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, in part, because it recognizes the challenges victims face when attempting to break the cycle of violence.

Anyone with information about the murder-suicide is asked to call Cpl. Robert Brazil at 219-942-4666.

City residents who may feel trapped in an abusive relationship can reach Ellis, the department's social worker, at 219-942-3406, ext. 1069, or rellis@cityofhobart.org.

Staff Writer Bob Kasarda contributed to this report.

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