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Salem couple found dead on cruise ship

SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) – A newlywed Salem couple in their 50’s on a 14-day Caribbean cruise were found dead on the ship in an apparent-murder suicide on Thursday.

Police in Salem said the FBI called them Thursday night to identify the couple. The Holland American cruise ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico when a cleaning crew found their bodies in a bloody room.

“All we know is that a big FBI evidence team went in with all kinds of things, and in and out with photographs,” cruise ship passenger Daniel Freeman said.

Police have not released their names, but our news team spoke with their neighbors on East Fourth Street in Salem.

“She stayed to herself,” Georgia Garten said.

Garten lives across the street and said she knew the wife, Darla Mellinger.

Our news team confirmed her October marriage to John Banner through notices published in our print partners, the Salem News and Lisbon Morning Journal. The newspapers gave us photos of the couple. 

Garten said she is shocked to hear of their deaths.

“I think that is kind of scary,” she said.

Police said they don’t have much of a history with the couple other than what they call a freak incident in December.

“I knew the names sounded familiar and I had gone and checked our reports. I recalled the event in December involving the two of them,” Salem Police Det. Dave Talbert said.

Talbert said it appeared John Banner accidentally stabbed his wife after they just got home from their honeymoon cruise. The couple’s stories matched, but Talbert said it was a bizarre case.

“The gentleman has retrieved an old war relic that he had, which was an old military style dagger, and had gone from one side of the room to the other where she was sitting on the edge of the bed unpacking her suitcase and had allegedly tripped over a throw rug and had fallen into her with the knife and she sustained a stab wound to the center of her chest,” Talbert said.

The FBI is not yet releasing how the couple died.