Officials ID 'person of interest' in weekend slayings of 4 ND residents; lived in same town

Officials said the man who committed suicide in front of police lived a block away from a woman and her three grandchildren who were fatally shot in their home on a North Dakota reservation.

Kalcie Eagle, 21, of New Town, was identified as a "person of interest" in the deaths of Martha Johnson, 64, and three of her grandchildren — Benjamin Schuster, 13, Julia Schuster, 10, and Luke Schuster, 6 — said Mountrail County Sheriff Ken Halvorson.

Eagle killed himself Sunday night in Parshall, about 20 miles west of New Town, in front of a deputy and a highway patrolman. Halvorson said Eagle was at a friends' house when he walked outside and stabbed himself.

Halvorson said authorities are still trying to determine what role, if any, Eagle had in the slayings.

New Town, on the Fort Berthold reservation, is home to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, known as the Three Affiliated Tribes. The FBI is leading the investigation into the deaths because the federal government has jurisdiction over crimes on reservations.

FBI spokesman Kyle Loven declined comment Tuesday, citing the ongoing investigation.

Eagle was a tribal member, Halvorson said. Eagle's father, Scott Eagle, had served on the tribal council until earlier this month. Calls to Scott Eagle by The Associated Press rang unanswered Tuesday.

Halvorson said Martha Johnson's husband, Harley Johnson, was out hunting when the slayings occurred. Calls to Harley Johnson's home telephone rang unanswered Tuesday.

A fourth grandchild, a 12-year-old boy, was in the home but wasn't hurt and called 911, the sheriff said. One of the surviving child's brothers fell on him during the shooting.

"His brother was on top of him and as soon as he saw the guy leave, he called 911," Halvorson said. "He hung up on the deputy and said he was going in to the other room to hide."

Halvorson said a fifth grandchild, an 8-year-old girl, was sledding in a nearby neighborhood when the shootings occurred. The sheriff said Julia had been out sledding earlier with her younger sister, but went home and was killed.

Johnson and her three grandchildren were not tribal members, he said. It is unclear where the two surviving children are.

Homicides are rare in the state: In 2011, only 24 murders and non-negligent manslaughters occurred in 2011.

Schools reopened in New Town on Tuesday, with additional counselors and clergy called in to help students and staff cope with the deaths, school officials said. A community prayer service was held Monday night in the town of about 2,000 within North Dakota's oil patch.

Law enforcement officials in the area were familiar with Kalcie Eagle, Halvorson said. In March, Eagle was arrested after leading authorities on a 100-mile, high-speed chase in western North Dakota in a stolen pickup truck pulling a trailer, Halvorson said.

Since the arrest happened on the reservation, Eagle was turned over to tribal authorities. It isn't known where the case stands, as tribal authorities did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday.

"He made it to the reservation," Halvorson said. "That was his goal."

Halvorson described the Johnsons as "very upstanding citizens" who had both recently retired. Martha Johnson was a private pilot and had helped authorities in the region with search missions, he said, noting she also had a concealed-carry gun permit.

"I gave her the test," he said.

Megan Hale, 22, who lives across the street from the Johnsons' home, said the children seemed to have moved in with the couple recently. She never saw the children's mother, whom authorities declined to identify.