CLEBURNE — Just days before Cleburne police arrested Sam Ball for murder, he spoke about his love for his wife, Betty.
"He told us that he can't go to sleep unless he can reach out and feel mom's hand," said the couples' daughter, Beverly Fox. “So they would go to sleep every night holding hands."
Betty was 87 when Sam allegedly murdered her. He turned 83 in jail. His bond is $1 million.
Their kids are finding Sam’s love letters to Betty as they go through their parents’ home.
Sam and Betty Ball kept their vows for more than half a century. They worked together every day at Cleburne’s airport.
Their son and two daughters say dementia parted them before death.
Beverly described his occasional episodes as "Hallucinations. Delusions," and angry outbursts over nonsense.
In April, an assault call brought police to the home of Sam and Betty Ball. Betty said she didn't want to file criminal charges against Sam, so she tried to get emergency mental health care for him. Her son, Stephen Ball went with her.
"Everyone was saying, 'It's that department over there.' 'No, it's that department over there.' And we couldn't get him treatment," Stephen Ball said. “We couldn’t find a front door. It was like trying to assault a fortress.”
They said the health care system frustrated them multiple times for two years as they saw flashes of delusional behavior.
But Sam was always rational when given simple exams. That's what happened a few days before Betty was found dead.
Their children believe the couple argued on May 5, and that Sam strangled her during a struggle.
It's not official.
"My dad is beyond destroyed by this," said Beverly Fox. “Just to say 'torn apart' is not enough. When he’s lucid, he understands what happened.”
The children say it should be easier for families to get help.
“It’s very difficult to get all the pieces and parts to work together,” Beverly said.
Johnson County Justice of the Peace Ronny McBroom agrees. Betty Ball turned to him when her husband turned violent in April. She hoped Judge McBroom could get him temporarily committed for evaluation and treatment.
McBroom said he had to call mental health supervisors in order to get caseworkers to see Sam at his airport office. The judge said they reported back that there was no reason to hospitalize him.
“From what we heard, they said there was no problem,” Stephen Ball said.
The family held a memorial service for Betty Ball on Saturday. They’ve been shuttling back and forth between funeral home and jail.
They still love their dad deeply. “My heart breaks for him, because he didn't ask for this to happen to him," Beverly said.
According to recent research, physical aggression accompanies dementia in 29 percent of cases. Sam Ball’s son and two daughters blame the disease for their mother's death... not their dad.