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WIFE OF EX-LOCAL TV ANCHOR SHOT TO DEATH VICTIM HAD CALLED HUNTER'S TALK SHOW TO AIR MARITAL PROBLEMS

A former Buffalo television news anchor told New Orleans police his wife shot herself to death in their bed early Thursday, hours after she had called his New Orleans radio talk show to complain about their marriage.

Talk show host Ron Hunter, whose tenure at WGR-TV here in the early 1970s changed the style of Buffalo television newscasts, said he was awakened about 2 a.m. Thursday by the gunshot and turned on a light to find blood splattered on a wall and his own .38-caliber pistol next to his wife.

Hunter said he called the 911 emergency number and tried to revive Marilou "Bunny" Hunter, 32. Police said she died at Touro Infirmary in New Orleans at 3:01 a.m. Thursday, of a gunshot wound to the chest.

The cause of death has been listed as "unclassified," pending further investigation.

"The classification won't be for a good while," said Coroner Frank Minyard.

Hunter's employer, WSMB-AM, will have no comment, general manager John Mikovich said Thursday night.

But the Times-Picayune newspaper, quoting police sources and court documents, said the Hunters had a fragile marriage and that Mrs. Hunter apparently killed herself with her husband's pistol.

Hunter, who came to Buffalo from New Orleans in 1972, has been host of the talk show on WSMB radio in Louisiana for the past year.

He was taking calls on his show Wednesday afternoon with his guest, Dr. Judith Kuriansky, a sex therapist, when a woman called and complained she and her husband were drifting apart.

Dr. Kuriansky said the woman and her husband should seek counseling.

"I have tried that," the caller said. "We have seen a counselor and he has nixed that idea after the first or second session."

"This is really a risky thing for me to tell you," Dr. Kuriansky said. "You may have to give him a real big ultimatum to push him off his chair and make him say, 'Oh, my God, I don't want to lose her.' "

"Well, why don't you push him off the chair?" the caller replied. "He's sitting two feet from you."

"I sure worked my way into that one," said Hunter, acknowledging the caller indeed was his wife.

It was not the first time the couple had talked on the air. A couple of weeks ago, after Hunter was hospitalized and released, he called Mrs. Hunter to publicly thank her, a nurse, for saving his life when he started bleeding internally.

Hunter, whose arrival and aggressive broadcasting style often is cited as starting the switch from friendly, avuncular anchor men to matinee-idol types here, worked in Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia before returning to New Orleans in 1981, a year after his marriage.

The Hunters, married on Christmas Eve 1980 in Milville, N.J., had two children. But Civil Court records in New Orleans indicate the marriage was troubled in recent years.

The couple's children -- Allison, 7, and Jonathon, 3 -- were asleep in the den at the time of the shooting.

Mrs. Hunter, the former Marilou Spinka, twice sued for separation, in June 1988 and January 1989, both times accusing her husband of cruelty and once claiming he beat her. Hunter denied the claim and, in a response to her second suit, claimed she beat him.

Last August, Hunter filed a separation suit in which he claimed his wife had left home with their children for no reason.

After each case was filed, however, the couple apparently reconciled.

Police sources quoted by the Times-Picayune said Hunter gave detectives the following account of what occurred later that evening:

When Hunter got home, he asked his wife why she called in and embarrassed him and their children.

Later in the evening, Hunter went to rent movie videos for their children, who fell asleep in the den watching television.

Hunter suggested before midnight that he and his wife go to sleep because they had to get up early.

Mrs. Hunter said she wanted to smoke a cigarette and left the room. Hunter took a sleeping pill and went to sleep. He awoke about 1:30 a.m. to find his wife sitting on the bathroom floor crying.

She told him she had only "two options," and he told her that wasn't true, that she had several options.

He told her to come to bed, then went to sleep.

Hunter was born Bill Siegelin, the son of the late Curt Siegelin, a former Bogalusa, La., mayor.

Hunter had been a reporter and news anchor in New Orleans from 1967 until he moved to Buffalo in 1972.

As a combination anchorman and news director for Channel 2, he was the first to insist on an entirely modern set and graphics.

After leaving Buffalo, his career eventually took him back to his native New Orleans to anchor and eventually serve as news director for ABC affiliate WVUE-TV. Since then, his station's ratings nose-dive had resulted in a shift to Covington, La., as general manager of WARB-AM in 1988 and 1989.

Last year, he was host of a late night crime series on WNOL-TV, "New Orleans' Most Wanted," before he became afternoon-drive disc jockey and news director of the city's low-rated WSMB-AM.

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