A 64-year-old grandma and three of her grandchildren were gunned down in their North Dakota home Sunday afternoon. The "person of interest" killed himself in front of officials when he was approached just hours after their deaths.
NEW TOWN, N.D. — A man who has been called a "person of interest" in the slayings of a northwestern North Dakota woman and three of her grandchildren has been identified.
Mountrail County Sheriff Ken Halvorson says 21-year-old Kalcie Eagle, of New Town, was the man who stabbed himself to death in front of a deputy and a highway patrolman Sunday night in Parshall.
Halvorson says authorities are still trying to determine what, if any, role Eagle played in the shooting deaths Sunday of 64-year-old Martha Johnson and three of her grandchildren on the Fort Berthold reservation.
Halvorson also says that Eagle lived about a block away from the Johnson home.
FBI spokesman Kyle Loven declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
Johnson and three of her grandchildren — Benjamin Schuster, 13, Julia Schuster, 10 and Luke Schuster, 6 — were gunned down in the home Sunday afternoon, Mountrail County Sheriff Ken Halvorson said. Johnson's husband was out hunting. A fourth grandchild, a 12-year-old boy, was in the home but wasn't hurt and called 911, the sheriff said.
New Town is on an American Indian reservation called Fort Berthold. The suicide that followed occurred in Parshall, a reservation community about 20 miles from New Town. The man, in his 20s, killed himself with a knife in front of a deputy and a highway patrolman, Halvorson said.
Megan Hale, 22, lives across the street from the Johnsons' home. She said that the youngsters seemed to have moved in with Martha and Harley Johnson recently. She never saw the children's mother, whom authorities declined to identify.
Hale knew Martha Johnson as a friendly neighbor.
"She was a nice lady. She was always out in the yard working," she said. "It's very sad. It's unreal."
Hale never heard the gunfire that apparently took the four lives, only learning of the tragedy when police arrived Sunday, she said. After that, the usually quiet street was blocked off for nearly 12 hours as investigators gathered evidence.
On Monday, there was a teddy bear holding a note with a heart painted on it stuffed in the white picket fence that surrounds the Johnsons' beige-colored ranch-style home, which sits on a corner lot. The local school cancelled classes, and the community planned to hold a nighttime prayer vigil. The home is about 150 yards from an elementary school.
FBI agents were in the home Monday, while crime-scene cleaners in white coveralls and breathing masks worked into the evening.
Tex Hall, the Three Affiliated Tribes chairman, called the killings the "worst tragedy" to happen on the reservation that he could remember.
"It's a terrible loss, especially when young kids are involved," he said. "It's a sad, sad day."
Newcomer Maddie Mendoza, a 21-year-old coffee shop worker who moved from Arizona in August, said everyone she has talked to is shocked and saddened by the killings.
"This is a nice little quiet town," Mendoza said. "Now this is happening."
Associated Press writers Blake Nicholson and Kristi Eaton contributed to this report from Bismarck, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D.