Man created fake persona before killing family
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Randall Engels used a fake name to exchange text messages with his estranged wife in the weeks before he killed her and their two children.
Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry revealed the new detail Thursday as his office closed its investigation into the Independence Day triple murder in Dundee.
Berry says Randall Engels created a fake persona named "Brian" and led his wife, Amy, to believe that a mutual friend had given him her number.
While pretending to be Brian, Randall encouraged his wife to try to work things out at home.
The pair exchanged frequent text messages until July 3, when Amy made it clear that she wouldn't return to her husband.
Randall Engels murdered his family the following day and killed himself.
Berry says there had been a history of domestic abuse by Randall against Amy, as well as emotional abuse against the entire family.
"Obviously in most relationships containing domestic violence, 'control' is a primary motivator of the perpetrator," Berry wrote in a memorandum about his investigation. "This separate persona created by Randall fits into this pattern of exerting control without Amy realizing she was sharing personal information with him that she would not have otherwise done."
Randall killed his family on July 4 after convincing them to meet him for lunch, Berry said.
Police were tipped off something might be wrong when a friend noticed a Facebook post from Randall that read "if she's gone I can't go on." There was also a picture posted online that appeared to show Amy dead.
Officers went to the home and found Randall, Amy and the children dead inside.
Based on the autopsy and other evidence, Berry concluded that Randall and shot Amy and the kids before killing himself.
Read the full memo from Yamhill County District Attorney Bradley C. Berry:
On July 4th, 2012, Newberg-Dundee 911 Center was contacted with information that led officers to the Engels' home at 1325 SW Charles Street, Dundee, Oregon. After entering the home, officers located the bodies of the four family members. After an exhaustive investigation, it was confirmed that the deaths were a "familicide" at the hand of Randall Engels, killing his wife, his children and himself. As we have discussed, and to fully understand this tragic event, the investigation had to reach back into the life and history of this family.
Randall and Amy Engels were married and living together at the Dundee address until Amy left the home, with the children, separating from Randall in April of this year. Her family members relayed that there had been a history of domestic abuse that included a history of physical abuse perpetrated by Randall against Amy, as well as controlling behaviors over the entire family that could be termed emotional abuse. Although the physical abuse had occurred, Amy never reported it to law enforcement and minimized it to family and friends.
Friends were aware of frequent arguments between the two and they were likely loud enough that neighbors overheard them too.
In late May of 2012, Amy filed for divorce. At the time of her filing she requested an emergency order granting her sole custody of the children. It has been reported that she had requested a Family Abuse Prevention Act restraining order, but that is not an accurate statement. Through this investigation it was determined that no such request was ever filed. As mentioned though, she did request sole custody of the children but in the same documents asked the court to grant visitation of the children by Randall.
I have not listened to the court hearing but as reported by family Judge Tichenor specifically inquired about this inconsistency and Amy appeared to minimize the threat ultimately providing insufficient information to the court upon which to grant the requested custody order ex parte, without hearing from Mr. Engels on the matter. The court was unable to grant her request in light of Amy's reluctance to share the full information about what had gone on in the relationship.
By July 4, Randall had yet to be served with the divorce paperwork but investigators were able to confirm that he was aware it had been filed and that was the path that Amy had chosen. It too appears that he was avoiding service of the paperwork.
Detectives also learned that a week or two prior to June 16th, 2012, Randall discussed with a coworker getting a gun for "protection". It wasn't clear to the coworker what the issue was but Randall did mention someone was "disrespecting" his family. On June 16 Randall purchased a Charter Arms .357, revolver at a Woodburn gun dealer. He told his coworker about purchasing it and asked the coworker to teach him how to use it. Although the coworker was willing, he and Randall never went shooting.
Randall continued to try to meet with Amy to discuss issues around the marriage and presumably to ask her to reconsider the divorce. It appears she tried to soften the situation by meeting with him and talking with him, but from the information provided by her friends, it was clear that she wanted to move forward with the divorce. That too became clear to Randall by July 3 after meeting Amy for lunch.
Randall and Amy had frequent contacts in the couple of weeks before the deaths by text messaging. Additionally, Randall had created a fictitious persona named "Brian." Randall, as "Brian" led Amy to believe that a mutual friend of theirs had given "Brian" her phone number and that's how he came to text with her. They had frequent and personal conversations via text messaging. At times "Brian" would encourage Amy to meet with her husband to discuss and attempt to work things out with her husband. When she asked if "Brian" knew her husband, "Brian" convinced her that he did not and changed the subject. On July 3, she sent a text to "Brian" making it clear that she would not go back to her husband and she relayed information about how the children were feeling about their father.
Obviously in most relationships containing domestic violence, 'control' is a primary motivator of the perpetrator. This separate persona created by Randall fits into this pattern of exerting control without Amy realizing she was sharing personal information with him that she would not have otherwise done.
Randall and Amy were part of a social group that had its own Facebook account. The group appeared fairly large and announcements and discussions with the group members were frequent on that site. Amy and Randall also had Facebook accounts of their own. A male member of that group was singled out by Randall as someone Randall forbade Amy from communicating with. To be clear, the relationship was never physical, rather he was someone Amy felt comfortable and safe talking to.
On July 4, 2012, Randall was to take the children to the St. Paul Rodeo. He convinced Amy to come with them. At first they were to meet for pizza in Newberg, but he convinced her to join the children and have lunch at the Dundee home. At 2:41pm Randall picked up food from a restaurant in Aurora and brought it home.
Amy and the children arrived at the home likely between 3:30 and 4:00. The scene showed that Amy and the children were in the dining room and food was on the table.
At approximately 4:45pm dispatch received a call from a friend of Amy's indicating that there was a disturbing posting on Randall's Facebook that included the words "if she's gone I can't go on." Posted on the group Facebook was a photo that appeared to be Amy, deceased. The woman also reported that she had been unable to reach Amy by phone after seeing the postings. It appears several members of the group saw the posting of the photo and perhaps 15-25 minutes passed before law enforcement was notified.
On arrival at the home, officers were able to see the same words written on a white board in the house by looking through a window blind that was partially bent. Officers tried to gain entry, but the house was locked as were the garage doors. They forced entry into the garage and then entered the home. Once inside the officers found the four members of the Engels family deceased. Detectives pieced together evidence at the scene that clearly showed that Randall killed his wife and children, and then killed himself.
Autopsies confirmed the conclusions of law enforcement. Each of the children had been shot twice and Amy had been shot once. These tragic deaths were the result of multiple murders and a suicide all at the hands of Randall Engels. No further investigation is warranted.
As an aside, it is clear that the efforts we all put into investigating and prosecuting domestic violence are an attempt to protect victims of violence and to prevent just this type of thing from happening. The most dangerous time for any victim of domestic violence is when she (usually a 'she') leaves the relationship. As a community, we need to be proactive to notify law enforcement anytime we have information of family abuse. Better to suspect it and be wrong than to suspect it and not report it. There is no telling if these deaths could have been prevented had law enforcement been involved days, weeks or months earlier, but the chances would have been greatly improved.
My compliments to all of those involved for an excellent and complete investigation in the most difficult of circumstances.