Rita and John Chakalos (submitted photo)
Rita and John Chakalos (submitted photo)

CHESTERFIELD, N.H. -- The death of John Chakalos, the owner of the Pond Brook Road property known for its elaborate holiday lights, has been ruled a homicide by a medical examiner as police in Connecticut continue their investigation.

John Chakalos, 87, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in his Windsor, Conn., home by one of his daughters Friday morning. It was immediately ruled a suspicious death and suicide was soon ruled out. According to a press release from the Windsor (Conn.) Police Department, its detectives are working with colleagues from the Connecticut State Police Central District Major Crime Squad on the homicide investigation.

Windsor Police Capt. Tom LePore had previously told CNN.com authorities are conducting a homicide investigation based on the condition of the body when it was found and because police did not find a weapon at the scene.

Anyone with information relevant to the case is asked to contact the Windsor Police Department at 860-688-5273, ext. 571.

Chakalos had become wealthy as an investor and was mourning the death of his wife, Rita, who died of cancer the week before Thanksgiving. The couple split their time between their homes in Connecticut and New Hampshire and had become well-known for the festive holiday lights that decorate their 82-acre Chesterfield property at 140 Pond Brook Road.

For several years, visitors have been allowed to drive through the estate for their enjoyment in mid-December if they brought a monetary donation or non-perishable food item for Joan's Food Pantry, which is an organization of Asbury United Methodist Church. The lights, in honor of Rita's memory this year, were illuminated for guests from 6 to 9 p.m. from Saturday, Dec. 13, until Sunday, Dec. 22.

Val Starbuck, a volunteer with Joan's Food Pantry, told the Reformer said the lights display was not canceled following John Chakalos' death because that is the way he would have wanted it. She said she didn't know how much had been generated but thought this year's amount of donations should be on par with last year, when the pantry had food to feed its clients until roughly March. Starbuck said that in addition to the donations, guests were constantly telling volunteers they had heard about the tragedy and expressing their condolences. The display was technically closed Monday night, but seven buses from area nursing homes were allowed to cruise through the property.

Starbuck said 693 vehicles visited the display Saturday night and 689 came Sunday. She also said she is uncertain what the future of the holiday lights will be.

Joy Washburn, the caretaker of Chakalos' property at in Chesterfield, told the Reformer some sort of memorial service or vigil for the deceased couple will be held sometime in the future.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.