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Crime News Accident, Suicide, or Murder

Investigators Are Puzzled After Idaho Woman Is Found Decomposing in Her Hot Tub

Was it accidental electrocution or something more sinister? The latest episode of Accident, Suicide, or Murder analyzes the case from multiple angles.

By Grace Jidoun

Accident, Suicide, or Murder kicks off the new season with a stranger-than-fiction story about the bizarre drowning death of 55-year-old Barbara Loesch.

How to Watch

Watch Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen Saturdays at 8/7c and next day on Peacock. Catch up on the Oxygen App.

A mom of two grown children, Chuck and Tina, and a grandmother to one, the widower lived alone when her body was found floating alongside a large TV in her hot tub in sleepy Post Falls, Idaho on January 11, 1998, in what seemed like a horrific death by electrocution. Was it a tragic accident, or were more sinister forces at work? Through interviews with detectives, crime scene photos, and police footage from a quarter century ago, Episode 1 of Season 5 provides a gripping account of Barbara’s death and the ensuing search for the truth that involved her husband’s mysterious death two years before.

“When someone’s asking for a welfare check at that home, the hair on the back of your neck goes up a little bit,” said Scot Haug, a former patrol sergeant with the Post Falls police department.

Relevant to the case was the fact that Barbara’s husband, Gary Loesch, had been fatally shot in his car in the early morning of November 13, 1995 while working a side gig delivering newspapers. The case was still unsolved.

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“Who would want to kill this poor newspaperman doing his route, and why?” pondered Haug.

His grown son Chuck, along with Randy Loesch, Gary’s brother, quickly became suspects since they surprisingly rolled up at the crime scene shortly after the police. But Chuck claimed in an interview with Accident, Suicide, or Murder that he knew the route well and was worried about his dad. Sure enough, DNA found on discarded cigarette butts at the crime scene ruled them out as suspects. It turned out that the DNA came from a woman.

Barbara Loesch featured on Accident Suicide or Murder episode 501

Fast forward two years, and police receive a call from Randy requesting a welfare check on Barbara. The 55-year-old had a known history of depression, and Randy noticed the back door to her house was open when he and his wife Laura stopped by, setting off alarm bells in his mind.

"She looked like she had been in that hot tub for several days. It was one of the worst death scenes that I had ever experienced.” Haug remarked with a shudder.

The TV in the hot tub raised more questions than answers. “Did she accidentally knock the TV into the water and was electrocuted?” wondered police patrol officer Greg McClean at the time.

Considering her depression, the answer wasn’t clear. Unfortunately, Barbara’s body was too decomposed for a toxicology test, and there were no obvious injuries or marks. The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was undetermined and suggested that it was a possible accidental drowning.

Small details point to something criminal

The TV was plugged into a 25-foot extension chord that came from the garage, but Haug noticed a bizarre detail: the chord was not plugged in. Barbara had other medical issues, and one theory was that she had a health emergency and died before she could plug in the TV. Of course, a more ominous explanation is that someone was present during her death and had unplugged it afterward. Randy’s suspicious behavior at the crime scene once again put him in the crosshairs of the police.

“Randy basically did not want to go into that house until I went in with him,” remembered McClean, adding, “There was something that was just not sitting right with me at that point.”

In police footage played on the show, Randy adamantly denied any involvement. Brad Maskell, a detective who had investigated Gary’s case, revealed a crucial detail on Accident, Suicide, or Murder. “After Gary’s death, Barbara was the beneficiary of a decent sum of money. What happened to the money?” he asked.

Turns out Randy had borrowed money from Barbara, and “his debt would have been wiped clean,” noted McClean.

Follow the money

The investigators from Gary’s cold case joined forces with police, and now a squad of Post Falls' finest were determined to link the two deaths. The police cast a wider net with their investigation, and one person in particular popped up on the radar: Tina Loesch, Barbara’s daughter.

A troubled young mother, Tina had her son Christopher at age 18 and had been in and out of jail for check fraud. Evading police questioning, Tina kept rescheduling her interview and eventually lawyered up. “Why would she have anything to hide?” asked Haug.

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“When I found out my sister refused interviews, that threw up big red flags for me that she may be involved. After my mother passed away, my sister Tina did show up at the house for a brief period of time. From what I remember, she was sad but indifferent,” Chuck told show producers.

Despite receiving a windfall after her husband’s death, Barbara was in bad shape financially. Described as “kind” and “patient,” the widow was generous to a fault with many friends and family, “to the point where she was broke herself,” said Chuck. She had loaned Randy money but had funneled even bigger sums to her daughter, Tina.

A turning point in the case came when investigators discovered that Tina had befriended a woman named Sky Hanson in jail. Sky was “well-known to state police,” said Maskell, “for being involved in drug manufacturing and dealing.” After Tina and Sky were released, they started a home renovation business together and asked Barbara for seed money. Gary didn’t approve of Sky, which resulted in so much conflict between the father and daughter that he changed his will, essentially cutting Tina out by leaving her just $1.

"After Gary’s death, it appeared Tina was trying to become close to her mother again. During that time period, Barbara had given Tina well over $100,000, claiming it was for the business. Obviously, Tina was taking advantage of her mother,” McClean told Accident, Suicide, or Murder.

More concerning signs: Barbara had an eye-popping $500,000 life insurance policy, and Tina was the beneficiary — as long as her death was by accident or natural consequences.

The “Undetermined Cause of Death” on Barbara’s death certificate had prevented Tina from cashing out, but she and her attorney managed to change the cause to “accidental” drowning based on what the pathologist had said on the autopsy report. Once she and Sky got the money, the two fell off the face of the earth, taking Tina’s son Christopher with them. Police, concerned for Christopher’s welfare, threw all their resources into finding them, including monitoring border crossings and plane flights, but turned up empty-handed.

A shaky witness

Barbara Loesch featured on Accident Suicide or Murder episode 501

A suspect in an unrelated murder case in Washington struck a deal to share what he knew about Sky and Tina in exchange for some leniency. On Accident, Suicide, or Murder, viewers hear Bradley Steckman confessing to his involvement in the murders of both Barbara and her husband Gary. An employee of Tina and Sky's renovation company, Brad had been caught in their web of fraud.

“Tina plugged the extension chord while I set the TV on the hot tub,” the now-deceased co-conspirator said in police audio played on the show.

Ultimately, Brad pushed the TV in, and he claimed the electrocution knocked her out but didn’t kill her. Tina allegedly held her head under the water until she drowned. “He must have unplugged that TV so that Tina could go ahead and finish what they had started,” said Maskell.

Brad had even more bombshells: he claimed Sky masterminded Gary’s demise and asked him to pinpoint locations on Gary’s paper route that would be the best spot for murder.

The investigation "hits a brick wall"

Because Brad was a “co-conspirator,” his testimony would not be allowed in court, making it difficult to obtain arrest warrants for the women. The case stalled for years until McClean was promoted and decided to reopen the investigation. Detective Paul Farina, interviewed on Accident, Suicide, or Murder, contacted a TV show that featured fugitives as a last-ditch effort. Hours after the last episode of the series aired, Tina and Sky were found in Pima County, Arizona — both dead in a murder-suicide pact. Their bodies were found in a car, and Tina was holding the gun. Eerily, the suicide note did not mention Tina’s son Christopher, who would now be a teenager. According to Farina, Tina and Sky had seen a commercial for the show, and told an acquaintance that they’re rather die than go back to prison.

When police arrived at their house, it was under renovation, and all their belongings were boxed up in the garage. In another bizarre and gruesome twist, there were hundreds of dryer sheets underneath the boxes. “What it meant to me was they were trying to mask an odor,” stated Farina. The police dug up the area, but no remains were found.

“What happened to Christopher?” asked Maskell. “To this day, we don’t know.”

See new episodes of Accident, Suicide, or Murder, airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.

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