CORNISHVILLE — A Mercer County couple was found dead Wednesday as the result of an apparent murder-suicide in their home, police said.
Mercer County Coroner David "Sonny" Ransdell identified the couple as Dennis and Pat Blackburn, both 55.
Dennis Blackburn was employed by the Lexington fire department from 1983 until he retired as a captain in October 2007, said Battalion Chief Marshall Griggs.
Pat Blackburn worked as a surgical technician at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, where she had been employed for 23 years.
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Capt. Scott Elder of the Mercer County Sheriff's Office said the two were found by a son shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday at the couple's home on Votaw Road in western Mercer County.
"Right now it appears to be a murder-suicide," Elder said. The son went to the house after he learned his mother had not arrived at work in Lexington.
"Pat just did not miss work," said family friend Lisa Goodrich.
Pat Blackburn suffered stab wounds and a gunshot wound, and Dennis Blackburn suffered a gunshot wound, Elder said. The two were found in a master bedroom of the home about 10 miles west of Harrodsburg, near the Washington County line.
"Her co-workers are very upset, and our chaplains have been working with them today in grief counseling," said Central Baptist spokeswoman Ruth Ann Childers.
The Blackburns had two sons, Johnathan, 23, and Samuel, 21. Samuel lives in Mercer County, and Johnathan attends college in Texas.
Goodrich, who knew the family through a 4-H horse and pony club, said the deaths come as a shock.
"It's impossible to imagine they're gone," she said. "They were the people that you'd go, 'I wish we could be like them.' They were good to have around, and it was fun to be with them. It's impossible to imagine what brought this to a head."
Goodrich said the Blackburns were "wonderful, church-going, giving people." The Blackburns built their house in western Mercer County in 1997.
The Blackburns owned seven or eight horses and were active in riding and establishing trails at Eagle's Nest, a horseback-riding area in Mercer County.
"We did trail rides out at Shakertown, trail rides out at Eagle's Nest, state horse show, area horse show," Good-rich said. "They were always upbeat and encouraging and positive."
Dennis Blackburn had been a vice president in the Central Kentucky chapter of the Kentucky Back Country Horsemen, a group formed in 2007 to preserve and maintain public horseback-riding trails.
Members of the group said everything seemed fine when the Blackburns went riding with other horsemen in Harlan County last weekend.
At a meeting Tuesday, the group selected Dennis Blackburn as a director, and members were surprised when the Blackburns didn't show up, said Roy Cornett, a director for the chapter.
Cornett said he grew up in Georgetown with Pat and Dennis; they were high school sweethearts, he said. Cornett remembered "Patsy" as gifted in barrel racing and pole bending.
Cynthia Higgs, another director for the chapter, said the Blackburns had been helping plan a packing trip to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park for the coming weekend.
Higgs said she thought the Blackburns' love for each other was noticeable when she was around them.
"After that many years, they still teased each other and they knew each other very well," she said. "They seemed to enjoy their lives together. They had a really good sense of humor when they described each other."
Dennis Blackburn was involved with large-animal rescue operations and served on the trails committee for the Kentucky Horse Council.
Autopsies will be performed Thursday at the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort, Ransdell said.