July 22 2000

– Homicide detectives said they found empty prescription anti-depressant bottles in the bedroom where a Modesto man and a 6-year-old boy died Tuesday in an apparent murder-suicide.

Detectives said they are waiting for the results of toxicology tests to determine if the pair died from an overdose of the drugs, Stanislaus County sheriff’s investigators said Friday. That could take six weeks.

The child, Alex Michael Jeske, was found dead in the south Modesto home where he was spending the summer with his uncle, his aunt and her boyfriend.

Found dead in the same bedroom was Ronald Scott Artel, 33, the boyfriend of Alex’s aunt, Nancy Miller, 39. The couple lived in a small two-bedroom home at 1410 Holm Ave.

Detective Sgt. Tim Beck said Artel left a suicide note in the bedroom explaining that he was taking his life because of personal problems. The note also contained information about why Artel killed the boy, authorities said, but detectives haven’t released those details. The note was behind the door.

Beck said Artel and Alex had been dead for several hours when their bodies were found by Miller. Their bodies showed no obvious sign of trauma.

Investigators have interviewed several witnesses who said Artel had been very depressed. He had displayed violent and bizarre emotional behavior, deputy Jeff Broumas said.

Other witnesses reported that Artel had shown signs of delusional behavior toward the boy, but investigators wouldn’t elaborate.

Broumas said the empty pill bottles were in the trash in the bedroom. According to a pathologist, an overdose of the anti-depressants would produce fatal results, Broumas said.

Some people who knew Artel speculated that he might have been exposed to hazardous chemicals at the Modesto food processing plant where he worked, and that might be his cause of death.

Beck said there is no reason to believe, at this time, that any exposure to chemicals on the job led to Artel’s or Alex’s deaths.

Artel and Miller had lived together for more than seven years. Alex had stayed with the couple on numerous occasions, Miller said. Also living at the house was Miller’s brother James Edward Clark, 41.

Alex died one day before his seventh birthday.

A funeral for Alex will be at 1 p.m. Monday at Lakewood Funeral Chapel, Hughson. Visitation will be from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at the chapel. Burial will be at Lakewood Memorial Park, Hughson.

– Daryl Farnsworth


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