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Sheriff Says Triple Murder-Suicide On North Dakota Farm Was The Result Of A ‘Dispute Between Brothers’

Towner County Sheriff Andrew Hillier said Robert Bracken shot his son Justin Bracken, brother Richard Bracken and farmer Doug Dulmage before turning the gun on himself.

By Jill Sederstrom
A photo of a Wheat Farm

A triple murder-suicide on a North Dakota farm late last month was the result of a “dispute between brothers,” according to authorities.

Towner County Sheriff Andrew Hillier announced Friday that investigators believe Robert Bracken, 59, and his 64-year-old brother Richard Bracken had been in the midst of a “dispute between brothers” that had been escalating for at least a week before Robert killed his brother on Aug. 29, while they were helping to harvest wheat.

Robert also allegedly killed his own son, Justin Bracken, 34, and farmer Douglas Dulmage, 56, before turning the gun on himself, authorities said. All three victims died of multiple gunshot wounds.

“Robert Bracken had one fatal, self-inflicted gunshot wound and was in possession of the firearm that was found at the scene,” Hillier said.

The three Bracken family members had worked for Dulmage and were in the wheat field that day for “harvest-related activities,” when the fatal gunfire erupted.

Justin’s fiancée Paige Dykstra told The Forum/WDAY that she and her 11-year-old son discovered the bodies along with Dulmage’s parents when they went to bring the men supper.

"I am more concerned about my son right now than myself, because no one should ever have to see that, especially a little 11-year-old that idolized Justin," she said.

Dykstra had been 12-weeks pregnant with Justin’s child, who he will now never get to meet.

“He didn’t deserve that,” she said. “None of the guys out there deserved how brutal that was.”

Dykstra described her slain fiancé as a “hard worker, great man, loving father, loving son (and) just all-around great person.”

Justin had worked for Dulmage for about 15 years at the time of his death.

Dykstra said the family is still struggling to come to terms with the incredible loss.

“I don’t think any of us will ever really know why this happened,” she said. “It was just evil had taken someone over.”

Dulmage’s close friend Pat Traynor had previously described his friend’s death to the news outlet as “an act of terror.”

Dulmage, a well-respected farmer with deep roots in the rural farming community, leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

“He was a pillar of the community; it’s a total devastating loss,” Traynor said. “He epitomized what it is like to be in the country, in terms of friendliness, kindness, empathy, people helping each other.”

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