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Shooting Death of State Official Probed : Investigation: Police have not yet been able to interview the Huntington Beach man’s wife, who was found unconscious in their home at the same time his body was discovered.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police said Thursday that they have no clear suspect in the shooting death of a high-ranking state environmental official, but they have not yet been able to interview the man’s wife, who was found unconscious in their home at the same time his body was discovered.

Ardith Cribbs, 38, was in stable but guarded condition at Pacifica Community Hospital in Huntington Beach on Thursday afternoon after an apparent drug overdose Wednesday. Huntington Beach police Officer Mike Corcoran said she had regained consciousness Thursday but was too incoherent to talk to police.

Gordan L. Cribbs, 49, her husband, was found dead of a bullet wound to the torso about 3 p.m. Wednesday at the couple’s Huntington Beach home.

Police also revealed Thursday that they had found a .38-caliber revolver believed to be the murder weapon at the Cribbs home on Elgin Circle, a quiet cul-de-sac.

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Huntington Beach Police Lt. Luis Ochoa said Thursday that Ardith Cribbs is a possible suspect in the death of her husband and that police believe she may have been trying to commit suicide as well. But officers are waiting for her medical condition to improve so they can interview her before proceeding with a possible arrest, Ochoa said.

“They haven’t talked to her yet; that’s what they’re waiting for,” he said.

Corcoran noted that there was no sign of forced entry and that the door to the house was unlocked.

“Anybody could have been there--a friend, a relative. She could have done it herself; he could have done something. . . . Until we talk to her, we really don’t know,” Corcoran said. “From what everyone is saying, they seem like a nice couple. It’s very strange.”

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Meanwhile, Gordan Cribbs’ three grown children from a previous marriage mourned Thursday in disbelief.

“The way it happened--I just keep picturing it in my head,” said a sobbing Kendra Cribbs, 21. “He didn’t deserve it. He was a good man.”

A native Californian, Gordan Cribbs graduated from Ventura High School in 1962 and Humboldt State College in 1966. He worked for more than 25 years at the state Department of Fish and Game, starting as a warden on a patrol boat and rising to regional patrol chief for Southern California.

He was an animal lover who enjoyed sports, fishing, hunting and photography, according to a statement from the Department of Fish and Game.

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Gordan Cribbs divorced his first wife about eight years ago and married Ardith about five years ago, said Kendra Cribbs, who last saw her father last Friday.

“He came over to pick up my brother, and they went out for pizza,” she remembered between tears. “I had already eaten . . . and I had plans, but I talked to him for a while, just ‘How’s it going?’ and stuff like that.”

Kendra Cribbs said that Ardith was moody and that the couple had some problems recently. Her father’s neighbors once told her that Ardith chased Gordan around with a shovel, Kendra Cribbs said.

“I think she had a lot of problems,” Kendra Cribbs said. “We always thought, ‘Someday she’s going to kill him or something,’ but we never really took it seriously. My dad wasn’t a violent man at all.”

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At the state Department of Fish and Game, Cribbs was the top enforcement official for Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties.

“Gordan Cribbs was always the consistent, exemplary wildlife protection officer. He was dedicated to and believed passionately in his calling,” said Fred Worthley, regional manager of the Department of Fish and Game, in a prepared statement. “Committed to department loyalty and dedicated to those fellow wardens he worked with daily, Gordan has great numbers of friends and associates in the region. This sudden loss has impacted us severely.”

Besides Kendra and Ardith, Gordan Cribbs is survived by his mother, Dessie Cribbs of Ventura; his brother, Hal Cribbs, who lives in Northern California; and two sons, Sean, 25, who lives in Orange, and Sokie, 19, of Huntington Beach. Funeral plans are pending.


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