Five members of a Utah family found dead in their home last fall overdosed on a mixture of drugs, and an investigation revealed the parents were concerned about a pending apocalypse, police said Tuesday.
Springville Police Chief J. Scott Finlayson said authorities have concluded their probe into the September deaths of Benjamin and Kristi Strack and three of their children, ages 11, 12 and 14.
The cause of death for all five was “drug toxicity,” he said.
Investigators determined the parents and the 14-year-old committed suicide. The younger two children’s deaths were ruled homicides. However, Finlayson said there were no signs of a struggle.
Finlayson said interviews with people who knew the Stracks indicated the parents were concerned with evil in the world and wanted to escape from “impending doom.”
“There seemed to be a concern about a pending apocalypse that the parents bought into,” he said at a news conference. “While some friends though that suicide might have been, or could have been, included in their plans, others believed they were going to move somewhere and live off the grid.”
Police also found old letters between Kristi Strack and Dan Lafferty, who is featured in the book “Under the Banner of Heaven.”
The 2003 John Krakauer book was about the violent history of an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, told through the true story of a double murder committed by two brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty. They killed their brother’s wife and 15-month old daughter, saying they received a revelation from God.
Investigators said it appeared the Stracks were close with Dan Lafferty at one point but hadn’t talked to him since 2008. Police Corp. Greg Turnbow said investigators do not believe the couple’s beliefs came from Dan Lafferty.
The Stracks’ bodies were found by an older son and the children’s grandmother in a single locked bedroom Sept. 27, according to search warrants. The couple was in the bed, and their children were tucked into the covers around them.
Police found cups with liquid inside next to each of the bodies. Authorities said Tuesday the family members overdosed on either methadone, heroin or a combination of drugs.
Relatives have said one child, 14-year-old Benson Strack, left a goodbye letter, and the house looked like the family had prepared for a long trip away. Benson Strack’s letter was to his best friend.
Relatives have said they believe the deaths were planned and mental illness was a factor.
Court records show Benjamin and Kristi Strack had a history of legal and financial problems, and had gone through court-ordered drug treatment several years ago. But Benjamin Strack’s boss said it had appeared those troubles were behind them.
Springville is a city of about 30,000 near Provo, about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City.