Last November, Belinda Pearle Bastian poured gasoline on a fire in the fireplace of her home.

Fumes ignited instantly, setting her and the home ablaze. Bastian, 32, was critically injured and hospitalized for several weeks with second- and third-degree burns over 30 percent of her body.Her husband, Kenneth Bastian, 48, suffered minor burns, and the home, 1534 S. 10th West, sustained about $20,000 damage.

Medical and home repairs mounted.

"The hospital bills basically put them right in a corner," said a neighbor, "and they didn't have anyplace to turn."

So sometime last week or over the weekend, the Bastians apparently decided there was only one way out: murder-suicide. The couple went to bed with a .22-caliber handgun. Kenneth Bastian shot his wife in the head, then turned the gun on himself.

"It appears they killed themselves because of pain and a large amount of money they owed in medical bills," said homicide Detective Jim Bell. "It was a staggering amount of bills. The fire basically destroyed their lives."

Although no notes were left, Bell is confident the murder-suicide was agreed upon by both parties. He's talked to friends and relatives who say the couple had hinted that they might do something like this.

"But it wasn't to the point where anyone was really concerned about it," said Bell.

A neighbor discovered the bodies about 10 p.m. Wednesday.