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Husband could not overcome ‘demons’

Judy Trusty was not surprised when South Lake Tahoe police called her with the horrible news. For three years, her 35-year-old husband, Michael, had threatened to kill himself. His alcohol and drug addiction – “his demons,” as she called them – sent him spiraling out of control.

“He lived loud and messy and he died loud and messy,” she said.

Yet the man who took a gun from behind the counter at Pacific Pawn Brokers last Friday and shot himself through the heart in the store bathroom was not the same man she fell in love with in fifth grade.



“We’ve known each other for 26 years,” she said. “He was one of the most wonderful people that I have ever known. He was a great father – patient, kind and lots of fun.

“But there was a side of Michael that compelled him to do some awful things when he was drinking. I don’t know how or why that side took over him.”




Michael Trusty’s fight with alcohol and drug abuse began as a youngster. Perhaps it was caused by his severe Attention Deficit Disorder or maybe it was genetic, said his wife. Trusty’s biological father died of complications from alcohol and drug abuse.

Whatever the cause, Trusty recognized the problem and sought treatment before he was even legally allowed to drink. At age 20, he checked himself into a rehabilitation program.

For the next 12 years, Trusty was sober. He and Judy were happily married and raising their young son.

“During that time he never lived like a druggie. We were as normal as a family could be, even with someone with addictions,” she said.

While Trusty had trouble holding down a job, the family lived comfortably on his wife’s salary as a registered nurse. Trusty was a stay-at-home dad, spending most of his time with their now 10-year-old son, Ben.

“For years he said ‘I will never drink again,’ and he meant it. I kept wine coolers in the refrigerator and he never touched them. He could meet friends at a bar and never touch a drop. He said he never missed it,” Judy said.

But three years ago, Trusty’s life took an unexpected turn. He was fired from his job at a travel agency and took the loss hard.

“He felt like a failure. I loved the fact that he was a stay-home dad, but he always felt guilty about it. When he lost his job, he went into a major depression.”

It was then that Trusty first considered suicide. But he couldn’t do it unless he was drunk, said his wife.

That was the start of three long years of false promises, lies, thefts and heartbreaks. Trusty would try to pull himself out, even giving Sierra Recovery Center three tries.

In May, his wife got the paperwork for a divorce. Crushed, Trusty checked himself into a mental health facility. For a while, he seemed able to function. The couple reconciled and Judy never filed the divorce papers.

Then the demons returned.

Last weekend, while his wife and son were visiting family, Trusty took a bus from his home in Chico to Reno. He tried to buy a gun, but couldn’t without a Nevada driver’s license. That’s when he returned to his old haunts at Lake Tahoe, a place he loved and would have remained if a family emergency hadn’t taken the couple back to Chico.

As a former employee at the pawn shop in the Crescent V shopping center, he knew about the gun behind the counter. When he reached around to retrieve it, he knew exactly what he was going to do, said Judy. He told her in a post card he sent from Reno just hours earlier.

“He had gotten a hold of a lot of speed and he knew that I would leave him,” she said. “He couldn’t stand to watch his addiction hurt those he loved the most. I know he saw his suicide as a gift to us. He felt like he was doing the best thing for me, for his son and for his family.

“People have a lot of mixed feelings about suicide. But Michael’s beliefs were different. He believed in reincarnation and he hoped the next time around it would be different.”


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