Police in Oregon say that a recent house fire in a small city of the Pacific-Northwestern state may have been intentionally set to cover up a grisly murder-suicide.
The bodies of married couple Keith and Erin Kroeker, their 10-year-old twin sons Luke and Braeden, and 7-year-old daughter Leia were said to have been recovered in the ruins of their Hubbard home on Tuesday, so says the Daily Mail. Postmortem investigations on the bodies uncovered that the children and the adult male were shot in the back of their heads at some time before the blaze. The adult female, meanwhile, was found to have died from some kind of blunt force trauma.
Law officials have somewhat hesitated on confirming the identities of the victims, but insiders say that the amount of bodies found is consistent with the five-member Kroeker family.
“We are just are not ready to comment yet on what we found,” Lt. Chris Baldridge stated to KTAU on Thursday, before confirming that the home did belong to Keith and Erin Kroeker, 39 and 42 respectively, and their three kids.
A close friend of the family, Emily Hamberger, shared with Oregon Live that the Kroekers had invited several people over to their home for a dinner party Monday evening. When guests departed, they reportedly witnessed Keith and Erin putting their little ones to bed. At around 3 a.m. early Tuesday morning, first responders were called to the Kroekers’ property, where they witnessed three different structures — the home, a detached garage, and a separate shop owned by Keith and Erin Kroeker, wildly burning, despite them not being close enough for the fire to spread.
Thirty minutes later, the first of the five bodies was recovered, with the other four being found sporadically over the next three days. Due to low temperatures caused by the winter weather, water that was doused in the hopes of saving the property and, by association, the lives of the Kroeker family hindered firefighters in their rescue efforts.
Lt. Baldridge additionally relayed that the fire seemed suspicious, but did not believe it was arson-related.
“What [we] can confirm,” the lieutenant continued during his conference, “is that we do not feel there’s any immediate danger to the public. We have a lot to do. We have five deceased individuals, and we need to figure out what happened here.”
Those who knew Keith and Erin Kroeker say that the dark incident just doesn’t “add up” to the wholesome exterior that the family often exuded. Ms. Hamberger, the wife of a Mid-Valley Community Church pastor, the same house of worship where Keith was an elder and Erin helped with the children’s choir, was just as dumbfounded as most were over the matter.
“It’s the most improbable family that anyone would do something evil toward,” Hamberger said. “This was a beautiful family.”
The superintendent of the Woodburn School District, Chuck Ransom, expressed that grief counselors have been waiting in the wings of Lincoln Elementary School, where the elder Kroekers’ twins attended, since news of the family’s “disappearance” first went public.
“We were shocked and saddened [over the news],” Ransom relayed through a statement, ” [and] since then, we’ve been waiting for word to see what the final outcome is, [as well as] what the extent of damage and potential loss of life is.”
The sheriff office plans to continue sorting through the remains of the property, located off Interstate 5, throughout the weekend. Relatives of Keith and Erin Kroker have not spoken publicly on the matter, but have asked the media for privacy during this time. Medical examiners promise to confirm the identities of the individuals as soon as they are able to.
[Featured Image by wbritten/iStock]