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An Oregon man is accused of hiring his nephew to murder his brother and future sister-in-law over an ongoing legal dispute involving a family estate.
Kenneth Atkinson, 54, and his nephew, Nathan Shane Detroit, 31, have been charged with the murders of Atkinson’s brother and fiancée, according to a statement from the Deschutes County District Attorney's Office. Prosecutors say Atkinson was the “mastermind” in the murder-for-hire scheme that left two people dead on Aug. 15, 2020.
Friends found the bodies of Ray Atkinson Jr., 34, and his fiancée, Natasha Newby, 29, in the basement of a Bend, Oregon, home previously owned by the Atkinsons’ late father, Ray Atkinson Sr., according to People. The couple died from blunt force trauma.
“The state alleges he [Kenneth Atkinson] killed Ray and Natasha because of his dispute with Ray over their father’s estate,” District Attorney John Hummel stated in the release. “Ken was the mastermind of these murders, and he was assisted by Nathan, his nephew.”
The home in which the bodies were discovered was the source of contention between the Atkinson brothers, according to the Associated Press. Atkinson Sr. died in 2019 but didn’t leave a will. Kenneth and Ray became embroiled in a legal dispute regarding their father’s $400,000 estate in the following year.
According to People, Atkinson allegedly promised Detroit an unspecified amount of money to help him carry out the killings.
Investigators initially pegged Kenneth Atkinson, a former Nevada corrections officer, as a suspect in the murders, citing the fact that he had a financial interest in the matter, according to the AP. They also suspected he had help but only recently reviewed evidence that allegedly pointed toward Nathan Detroit’s involvement.
The nature of the reviewed evidence was not disclosed to the public.
Atkinson and Detroit were arrested on Oct. 1 and booked into the Deschutes County Jail without bail, according to the DA’s release. Each of them faces charges of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz stated their investigation included more than 50 search warrants, 380 police reports, and the collection of nearly 500 pieces of evidence, according to the DA’s office.
“I am hopeful that this arrest will bring a small measure of closure and peace to the family and friends of Ray and Natasha,” said Krantz.
“Ray and Natasha’s families have been waiting 14 months for the arrest of the killers of their loved ones,” Hummel stated. “I committed to working tirelessly on this case until we had sufficient evidence to move forward.”
Atkinson and Detroit remain in custody and have yet to enter their pleas. They've each been assigned local public defenders, according to the AP.
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