SPRINGVILLE — Apparently concerned with the "evil in the world" and a pending apocalypse, Benjamin and Kristi Strack took the lives of three of their children and then killed themselves with lethal doses of drugs, Springville police believe.
The children, Benson, 14, Emery, 12, and Zion, 11, all died of a lethal cocktail of diphenhydramine and methadone. Kristi Strack died of a combination of those drugs plus dextrophan and doxylamine. Benjamin Strack died from toxic levels of heroin, according to a report from the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office.
Ben and Krisiti Strack's deaths were determined to be suicides. The manners of death for Emery and Zion were labeled as homicides because police said they were too young to consent to any type of suicide pact.
The death of 14-year-old Benson, who wrote what was thought to be a goodbye letter to a friend prior to his death, was listed as "undetermined."
"There are some questions we can't answer and may never be able to answer," Springville Police Chief J. Scott Finlayson said Tuesday.
Investigators believe the children all drank from a small bucket, like a pail that a child would bring to a beach, that contained the lethal cocktail that first put them asleep before killing them.
"There is no evidence any of the family members were forced to take lethal doses of any drug combinations, nor was there any evidence they took the drugs willingly," Finlayson said, adding there were no signs of a struggle either.
A red liquid that had been found in cups in the bedroom turned out to have no controlled substances in them, he said.
Whether the youngest children knew what they were drinking is a question that police don't believe they will ever be able to answer. With the exception of Benson's goodbye letter, no suicide notes were found.
The release of the final report into the Strack family deaths brings to a conclusion the Springville Police Department's investigation into the tragic incident from the night of Sept. 27, 2014, when all five bodies were found in the parents' bedroom, 954 E. 900 South, by the Stracks' oldest son.
Because the oldest son was an adult, had a job and was engaged, Finlayson said, investigators can only speculate that that was the reason he was not included in the Stracks' plan.
The brief but frantic 911 call made by Kristi Strack's mother was also released Tuesday. During the emotional call, she tells the dispatcher the "family all killed themselves." Others can be heard yelling and crying in the background.
Relatives told investigators that "leaving" this world had become a fairly common theme with the Strack family leading up to their deaths. But many believed the Stracks only had plans of moving to a sparsely populated area, such as somewhere in Montana, and living "off the grid," Finlayson said.
Detectives believe Ben Stack was the last person to succumb to the drug overdose. Zion was found on the master bed, on his back with the sheets pulled up to his neck, according to police. Kristi Strack was found on the other side of the bed, also under the sheets.
The body of Ben Strack was found on top of the covers, between Zion and Kristi, with one arm and leg partially draped over his wife.
Benson's body was found lying on his stomach on a mattress on the floor. Emery's body was found on a mattress under a blanket at the foot of the bed, according to police.
The toxic levels of drugs found in Kristi Strack's system were more than what would have been in the bucket, police said. They believe she took methadone separate from what the children were given.
Most of the drugs, except the heroin, found in the Stracks' systems were over-the-counter medications. Kristi Strack was a heroin user receiving methadone treatment at the time of her death.
There were notebooks with "to do lists" as if someone were going on vacation, the report states.
The note that was found in the house was written by Benson to a friend.
"The note indicated that Benson was aware that he may die, and was bequeathing his personal possessions to his friend," the chief said.
"Essentially, yes, it was a goodbye letter to a friend. And it basically mentioned that he would no longer exist on this Earth. Just saying goodbye, and he had an inkling he would be found dead," Ben Strack's brother Jake earlier told the Deseret News.
"The apocalyptic beliefs of Ben and Kristi Strack may have played heavily on Benson's writings," Finlayson said.
During Tuesday's press conference, Finlayson addressed some of the many rumors that his department received following the deaths. Among them was a possible connection between Kristi Strack and one of Utah's most notorious killers, Dan Lafferty.
Kristi Strack was a friend of a daughter of Lafferty, and they often visited him in prison. Sometime later, police say both Ben and Kristi Strack visited Lafferty at the prison. While investigators believe the Stracks hadn't seen or had contact with Lafferty since 2008, they still had some type of bond with him. Lafferty had wanted the Stracks to take care of his remains when he died.
Finlayson said when his detectives went to the prison to question Lafferty, he seemed genuinely remorseful upon hearing the news of their deaths. It was determined that Lafferty had no knowledge of a mass suicide plan. Police said Lafferty and the Stracks "didn't generally" talk about apocalyptic ideologies, and Lafferty appeared to have a different view of death than the Stracks.
Another prominent rumor was Kristi Strack's cancer. Finlayson said their investigation showed she had ovarian cancer at one time, but was believed to be cancer-free at the time of her death.
"We experess our sincerest condolences to the families of Ben and Kristi Strack. We appreciate their patience and understanding during this long and painful process," the chief said.
Finlayson and members of his administration met with Stracks' relatives for a couple of hours prior to Tuesday's press conference. The Strack family again stressed the importance of mental health screenings for loved ones.
Information about mental health and how to get help can be found at the National Alliance on Mental Health's website, www.namiut.org/, or by calling 801-323-9900, or toll free at 877-230-6264.
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