Raymond Nidiffer, a retired grocer implicated in a double stabbing Sunday at the Rogue Valley Manor that left his wife dead and him in critical condition, has died.

Raymond Nidiffer, a retired grocer implicated in a double stabbing Sunday at the Rogue Valley Manor that left his wife dead and him in critical condition, has died.

His family and Medford police reported that Nidiffer, 79, died at about 9:50 a.m. Friday of respiratory failure following a heart condition.

Police said his death closes the case for investigators, who will complete and compile their work in coming days.

While autopsies are pending that will find the cause and manner of death of Nidiffer and his wife, Mary June, 80, detectives "ultimately believe he killed her," then himself, Medford police Lt. Tim Doney said.

He declined to speculate about motive, but said investigators had found both the Nidiffers had numerous health issues.

"The only people who know all the details are dead," Doney said.

Sunday night, employees at the Manor doing a routine check requested by the couple found Nidiffer and his wife inside their locked apartment with stab wounds. She died there and Ray Nidiffer was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center, where his condition initially rebounded before worsening Thursday.

"While mom and dad's final days were touched by tragedy, their lives were defined by their love for each other," their son, Doug Nidiffer, said in a statement the family released Friday afternoon. "For more than 60 years they were partners in marriage, family, business and community; now they are partners in heaven."

The statement said that June had suffered for years from advanced Parkinson's disease and macular degeneration. Friends had noted that Ray had health problems of his own, including knee pain and the aftereffects of a stroke.

"This is what he wanted, what they intended from the beginning of this," family friend Phyllis Kerr said of Ray Nidiffer's death. The 74-year-old Brookings resident had known the Nidiffers for 40 years.

She said she was focusing on good memories of her good friends. Ray Nidiffer served on the Brookings City Council when Kerr's husband, Bob Kerr, owner of Kerr's Ace Hardware, was the city's mayor. The two couples, who each owned prominent Brookings stores, were active in community events and vacationed together.

Ray Nidiffer was the longtime owner of C&K Markets, which operates his namesake Ray's Food Place stores, as well as Price Less Foods and Shop Smart stores.

He bought an interest in a Brookings grocery store in 1956 and incorporated it in 1967 as C&K Market Inc. In 1969 he became the sole owner of the venture and built the chain through a combination of buying independent stores and opening new shopping centers.

Ray Nidiffer retired in 1997. Doug Nidiffer now heads the company while Ray's grandson, Alan Nidiffer, also is an officer. Ray and June Nidiffer have a daughter, Patricia, who lives in New York.

In Brookings, Ray Nidiffer was active in the Elks, Sydney Croft Masonic Lodge 206 and the Shriners. He served as president of the Rotary Club of Brookings-Harbor, president of the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce, president of the board of United Grocers, and president of the Brookings Flying Club. Ray was a pilot, fisherman and hunter.

June was active in Soroptimist International and Beta Sigma Phi, a non-academic sorority that includes women of all ages and education levels in social, cultural and civic enrichment activities. She attended the Brookings Presbyterian Church and was a volunteer for numerous community activities, the Curry Coastal Pilot reported this week. Friends said she enjoyed sewing, crocheting, painting and making cards.

Nidiffer also started Ray's Foundation, a nonprofit organization that annually awards more than $100,000 to groups that focus on improving communities where C&K Market has stores.

The Nidiffers moved to the Rogue Valley Manor in 2002, living first in a cottage, then moving to an apartment as their health worsened.

Doney said the Jackson County medical examiner will investigate Ray Nidiffer's death and conduct an autopsy, tentatively set for today.

Then all the information collected by police in regard to the couple's stabbings and deaths will be compiled. Investigators plan to close the case "by exception," a term indicating that all suspects are unavailable for prosecution, usually because they have died.

The family said a Web site is being established for public condolences and memories. Details about that and funeral arrangements will be announced soon.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.