Update: Police in North Dakota say a disagreement between brothers led to a triple-homicide and suicide, reports the Grand Forks Herald. The Towner County Sheriff’s Office blames a "dispute between brothers Robert Bracken and Richard Bracken" that had been "escalating for a week or more." Police did not provide specifics about the dispute itself, but they say they believe that Robert Bracken shot his brother; his own son, Justin; and another man, Doug Dulmage, before killing himself. Our story from Sept. 1 follows:
A relative who went to check on a late farmhand discovered the man and three others dead in a North Dakota wheat field on Monday. All had been shot in an apparent murder-suicide that has left rural Towner County shaken, per the Forum. Sheriff Andy Hillier said his department has never before dealt with a crime like this. Deputies arrived on the farm 13 miles northeast of Leeds to find the bodies of four men who worked together, three of whom were related. They were identified Wednesday as farm owner Douglas Dulmage, 56; and hired hands Justin Bracken, 34; Richard Bracken, 64; and Robert Bracken, 59. A .357 revolver was near one of the bodies, per the AP.
Though Hillier said deputies were still determining the motive of what appeared to be a murder-suicide, family members tell KFYR that there was a dispute among the three relatives that resulted in one man killing his son, brother, Dulmage, and himself. Public records show Justin was the son of Robert. "We need time to process this," a woman identifying herself as Robert's ex-wife tells NBC News, adding her former husband "didn't have a mean bone in his body." Nor apparently did Dulmage, described as a pillar of the rural community, where he served as a volunteer firefighter and president of the Benson County Farm Bureau, per the AP.
"Doug didn't have enemies. Everybody loved, loved Doug," a longtime friend tells KFYR. The shooting deaths represent "an act of terror you don't think about up here," he adds, per the Forum, which reports Dulmage's body was found inside a combine, about a third of a mile away from the others. Hillier noted farm equipment at the "very large" scene had been hit with bullets. "It's hard to grasp and understand why something like this can happen in rural North Dakota," Daryl Lies, president of the state's Farm Bureau, tells the AP. Awaiting answers, local farmers have come together to complete the harvesting of Dulmage's fields of wheat, corn, and soybeans, the AP reports. (Read more murder-suicide stories.)