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Del Rio Murders: Terhune employee finds it's like 'working with ghosts'

EMPIRE -- Diane Terhune's black-framed glasses are still on her desk in the warehouse where she and her husband, Ken, ran their wine accessories business, which they owned for 17 years.

Her tan Ugg boots, which she'd put on after coming in from her three-day-a-week yoga class, sit on the filing cabinet behind her desk.

The vitamins she took and photographs of her 16-year-old son, Elliott, remain where she left them, within reach on her desk. A dark pink rose in a small vase has yet to open.

"Everything is exactly the same. I can just hear them speaking to me," office manager and friend Teri Trujillo said Wednesday. "It's like working with ghosts."

Authorities found the couple's bodies in their Del Rio home Jan. 15. Court documents indicated they were shot to death two days earlier. Diane Terhune was 56. Her husband was 65.

Authorities arrested their 24-year-old son, Cameron Terhune, in the deaths.

Trujillo, 47, said she worked for the couple for more than six years and that she had been their sole employee for two years.

"It was more like a family than a business," she said. "I didn't feel like I was doing a real job. It was kind of like what you'd do for your mom and dad."

The Terhunes were like Ozzie and Harriet from the 1950s and '60s TV sitcom, said Trujillo.

"Diane would walk through the door in the morning and Ken would go, 'Good morning, darlin!' and give her a big smooch," she said. "I don't think I ever saw them have a major argument or heard them raise their voices."

She said Ken Terhune's day would start at about 4:30 or 5 a.m. when he would wake up to walk his dog, Cliff, around the neighborhood. "Alone time" with the small white terrier was precious to him, Trujillo said. He'd get home and shower, then take Elliot to school before coming into the office.

Trujillo said Ken Terhune was a workaholic and that the business was "his baby." He'd stay in the office until 4:30 or 5 p.m. each day, depending on what needed to be done. Diane Terhune would leave at 2:30 p.m. each day to pick up Elliot from school.

Ken Terhune loved recommending camping spots, restaurants or other discoveries to his friends, Trujillo said.

The last day they worked together, Jan. 12, he came into the office raving about a deli in Gustine.

"He'd always say, 'You gotta try this, you gotta try that,' " she said, sitting at her desk in the small warehouse. "He was a quiet person and it took a long time for him to open up. But once he did, he just took you in."

The couple befriended everyone they met and worked with, Trujillo said. They ended up on a camping trip at Jackson Rancheria in December with the people from whom they purchased their motor home. Each year during the holidays, Diane Terhune would give boxes of homemade almond roca to the mail carrier, the UPS worker and the FedEx deliveryman who collected packages from and delivered mail to the warehouse.

"She cared about everybody," Trujillo said. "She didn't just say, 'How are you?' and walk on. Diane always asked about the kids, the dogs, the cats and the family."

Diane Terhune would be outside in seconds if she spotted a dog or other animal pattering along the street, Trujillo said.

"She'd be out the door, calling, 'Here puppy, puppy, puppy.' If there was a tag on it, she'd call the owner. If not, she'd call the ASPCA. We had a duck, a rabbit, birds," said Trujillo. "If it hadn't been for Ken, Diane might have been the crazy cat lady, the woman with all the animals."

Trujillo said family members asked her to continue running the business. So the orders come in for the special wicks and decorative covers that turn wine bottles into candleholders, and she fills them. Trujillo said she's doing the best she can.

Many of the customers who call ask how she's doing and send condolences.

"I'm fine, I'm fine. Sometimes it's a little hard," she told one caller Wednesday.

Trujillo last spoke to Diane Terhune on Jan. 13 at 11:45 a.m. Terhune explained to Trujillo about a special gift they would begin including in orders above $50. She told Trujillo she didn't need to come in until Friday because business was slow.

The couple planned to go to the Bay Area on that Friday, Jan. 16, for doctor visits and to see family, Trujillo said.

But they never made it.

Trujillo was watching the 10 p.m. news Jan. 15 when she saw the report about two bodies found in a home on Stewart Road.

"I asked my husband, 'I wonder if Ken and Diane know about that?' since that's where they live. Then the news came up with a suspect photo and I lost it. It was Cameron."

Trujillo said her husband, Tim, made her breathe into a paper bag to catch her breath.

"I was walking around the room for 45 minutes to get myself together," she said.

She called the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department as soon as she calmed down.

That Friday morning, she went into the office and spent several hours going through the Rolodex, calling customers, friends and family members to tell them the news.

"I was crying on the phone with them," she said. "It's been a shock. It's just hard to understand."

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or 578-2235.

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