Attorney General Marty Jackley has wrapped up his press conference in Platte discussing the investigation of the deaths of Scott and Nicole Westerhuis and their four children and the fire that completely destroyed their home in the early hours of September 17, 2015. AG Jackley says all evidence supports the story he told based on preliminary findings back in September: Scott Westerhuis shot his wife and children with a shotgun, lit his house on fire with an accelerant, then shot himself with his shotgun.
Jackley says the remains of Nicole and her two daughters were found amidst the charred bedsprings of the bed from the master bedroom, which had fallen into the foundation as the house collapsed in the fire. Jackley says the remains of the two boys were also found on bedsprings found in a location corresponding to their bedroom (or bedrooms—I’m not clear on whether we’re talking about separate rooms). Investigators found Scott Westerhuis’s remains in the kitchen area. A Winchester Charles Daily shotgun with a discharged shell in the chamber was found three feet from him. Police dog Maggie found an accelerant two feet from Westerhuis’s body, but a North Dakota lab was unable to identify the accelerant.
Jackley said no evidence was found of any illegal drugs, sedatives, or other unexpected chemicals. Scott Westerhuis apparently had a blood alcohol content of 0.024, well below the DUI threshold of 0.08 and not enough, says Jackley, to be considered a factor in the crime. No soot was found in the airways of any of the deceased.
AG Jackley says no evidence points to the involvement of any third party in the deaths or fire. He said the Westerhuis home had two security systems. There is no evidence that either was tripped by intruders and no surveillance (Westerhuis had cameras on his property?!) that anyone else was around that night. Jackley declared the death and fire investigation complete (there is no longer any rationale, he said, for his Division of Criminal Investigation to hold the Westerhuis site). He said the financial side of the investigation continues and declined to comment on any financial details.
Probably the most important item displayed at the presser was the following timeline of the 24 hours before the fire:
AG Jackley said Scott Westerhuis was in Takini on business on Wednesday, September 16. Jackley says four calls received after 6 p.m. concerned the Department of Education’s cancellation that day of the GEAR UP contract with Westerhuis’s employer, Mid-Central Educational Cooperative. I didn’t catch what Jackley said the 8:24 p.m. call concerned. The Westerhuis cell phone account handled its last text at 11:30 p.m. Jackley refused to say who placed or received those calls or that text, as that information is part of the ongoing financial investigation.
At 2:57 a.m., Thursday, September 17, a call was made from the Westerhuis household landline to a cell phone belonging to Nicole Westerhuis. Jackley said voicemail picked up. The call was active for 43 seconds.
The next item established by evidence is the 911 call reporting the fire at the Westerhuis house at 5:36 a.m.
Jackley says the phones were destroyed in the fire, so no texts or voicemails could be retrieved from them. Jackley says DCI could not retrieve the last message left on Nicole’s phone from Verizon because the accounts were terminated. Jackley said Nicole’s phone was paid for by Mid-Central.
Climb down just one dark hole with me:
At 2:57 a.m., someone picked up the landline in the Westerhuis home and called Nicole’s cell phone. If Nicole was in the house, in bed, why does anyone do that? To find Nicole’s phone? If Scott made that call, why would the location of her phone matter… unless it was to make sure it was in the house and destroyed with everything else in the coming fire?
But whoever called, someone may have left useful evidence in that voicemail. That voicemail would have been available from Verizon, one would think, until the account was canceled. If Mid-Central paid for the phone, then Mid-Central would have called in to cancel the phone. When Mid-Central made that call, did Mid-Central destroy evidence?
Jackley said the state and the feds will continue to sift through the finances that may be behind these crimes. One key piece of financial evidence is missing: Scott Westerhuis’s safe. Jackley says investigators have been unable to identify the safe in the wreckage of the house. He says the most logical explanation is that the safe was completely destroyed in what he describes as a “catastrophic” fire. However, Jackley admits it is possible that Scott Westerhuis may have moved the safe or that someone else may have walked off with it. He asked anyone with knowledge of what happened to the safe to contact his office immediately.
Yeah, right. They can’t find a safe in a fire. Either they didn’t have one, or the State has it.
I can’t believe that a safe would be completely destroyed in a fire leaving no trace of it. To the contrary, that would be one of the last things to burn. Sounds like the safe went missing.
I wonder where Nicole Westerhuis was at 2:57 am when Scott returned from his business trip and called her cell from the home phone? Sounds suspicious to me that perhaps when he was out of town she may not have been home in the middle of the night.
Could Nicole have come home from wherever she was and, to avoid the “where were you” argument, gathered the girls together in her bedroom to go to sleep?
Were the daughters in bed with the mother, because they were aware that the shooter had already killed the two boys? If it was Scott calling to make sure the wife’s phone was in the house, why did he leave a message? Wouldn’t just hearing it ring, or vibrate be enough? And who at Mid Central shut off the phone, and when? And aren’t safes supposed to be able to withstand the heat of a fire?
The missing safe raises questions. I was in the fire service for over 40 years and investigated many fires. Safes do not burn up in this type of fire. I would bet the photos of the fire scene show the identifiable remains of the kitchen stove, washer, dryer, and other metal appliances. That metal is a lot lighter than any metal found in a safe. In addition most safes are designed to withstand at least an hour in a fire before the contents are damaged. Even then the safe should be identifiable. Either the safe was made of something other than steel or it’s gone. I guessing the Fire Marshal has bite marks on his tongue from hearing that statement from Jackley.
Wasn’t Chad Peters the guy who signed off on the Benda death certificate?
For being a deputy coroner, he sure gets himself involved in some high profile cases. Where is their elected coroner?
While Mr. Peters appears to be a funeral director, South Dakota has no required training for deputy coroners. Thus, one would think in a high profile case, a county would be more interested in having the most trained person signing off on a death certificate to avoid legal complications.
I don’t want to put on my foil hat, but again, there are questions.
Jackley didn’t say how Scott’s remains were identified as his, right?
As thousands of South Dakotans descend upon the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas for the winter, they should reconsider their decision since Mr. Jackley has ocean front property for sale in South Dakota which would save a trip!
Whoever cut off the Verizon phones please step forward. Who would destroy evidence in a case like this? Fishy.
As regards the safe; were there other guns found in the rubble? They would not completely burn but their presence might indicate that there was no safe, perhaps just a gun cabinet.
It probably is what it is, but the phone call is odd, the fact that the voice mail can’t be heard is really odd. The fact that the phone was cancelled is even more odd.
As for the rest? It probably is what it is. A Murder/Suicide
The Money will be the interesting part
As for the safe? Its either there, there wasn’t one or someone took it. Even if the fire was that bad, you’d be able to identify it.
Cory, thank you for the write up and insight. That 2:57 a.m. entry sticks out like a sore thumb. And there’s no identifiable remnant of a safe, but the much thinner gauge shotgun metal survived the heat? These loose ends leave too much to explain.
Is there a purchase record or a recollection of a friend that they had a safe?
From the KELO video of the new conference. Jackley states around 16:30 that there were pellets found in the clothing of the deceased. While my fire knowledge is limited, If the fire was hot enough to burn a safe to the point of no recovery, it would be hard to believe there was still a significant amount of unburned clothing on the deceased, especially since most shotgun shot is lead.
The evidence is intriguing, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. It would be nice to see some help from outside agencies to help with this investigation. Kudos to the crowd for asking good questions.
Westerhuis had a million dollar mansion, with a stand-alone gym. He had not 1 but 2 security systems. There’s no way this guy didn’t have a safe. A guy with a spread like that has a safe. A big one.
The report earlier was that no smoke or soot was found in the lungs of the mother and four children. However, that report said there was smoke or soot in the fathers lungs. That indicated that he was alive when the fire was started and he breathed in smoke before he killed himself. Can someone look up the old record of Jackley and the smoke issue? More questions!
SOOOOOOO he shot himself and family but saved the safe for someone else. NOT REALLY
So the public demands answers and the state does their best to provide them. The problem is, in situations like this there will always be unanswered questions. This leads to speculation, rumor, wild accusations, and conspiracy theories. Just read these comments and you quickly realize people are never going to be satisfied, and no amount of information or fact will be sufficient for many.
Even when things are easily explained people find their own versions to make things more complicated. Occam’s Razor is ignored apparently – if for no other reason than it gives people something to gossip about.
I really haven’t learned anything that suggests this is anything other than what it has been all along. A senseless tragedy. A semi-permanent stain surrounding the Gear Up program and MCEC. A sad lesson in reality for residents of a small town. A forever tarnished family name.
Questions will always remain because we cannot rewind time, read minds, or interview the deceased. It is probably best to let facts tell the story instead of writing extra chapters, but that’s just me.
Craig – Point well taken. It’s easy to get sucked down rabbit holes and lose sight of things that can be changed. The incidents at the Westerhuis mansion can easily divert focus from the fact that GEAR UP was another hog trough for pals of the Rounds and Daugaard regime. This must remain the focus if there is any hope of removing the corrupt ilk that misuses power to fill their pockets and stay in power for generations. This is a state that uses a gag law to protect white collar crime at the highest levels of South Dakota government and business. A sensational murder incident is just one chapter of a much bigger book. Criminals should never be allowed special favors to escape justice and public accountability. That’s what this discussion is really all about.
Jenny, Jackley said Westerhuis most definitely had a safe. The three possibilities are complete destruction, removal prior by Scott, or removal pre-fire or post-fire by someone else.
Jackley also said quite firmly that Nicole had nothing to do with the deaths or the fire. I don’t think Jackley presented any evidence today that supports that unequivocal conclusion. Jackley seemed overly concerned with bringing the families and the community closure. I’m not sure closure should be a primary motivation. Closure comes from the full truth.
What were the charges that Marty Jackley was going to level on the Westerhuis’s that would be so terrible that murder would be the only way out? Mr. Westerhuis could surely read the news reports on the EB-5 and see that you can steal 160,000,000.00 and not have to worry about it. Why was this so devastating for him? To kill your wife is terrible, to murder your children, makes no sense.
Could the 2am call from the home phone be caused by the heat or fire activating the home phone? As the home phone heated and started to melt could that have triggered a pre-programmed phone call.
Scott, we don’t know if the caller from the Westerhuis landline left a message on Nicole’s MCEC-paid phone. Jackley himself said the contents of that voicemail could be 43 seconds of silence.
Jeff, Jackley said firearms, plural were recovered from the fire site. Investigators were also able to identify the bedsprings on which the bodies of the wife and children were found. If those items survived the flames, why not the safe?
Jackley did not say on what information he based his certainty that Westerhuis had a safe. However, the backchatter I’ve heard has many community members mentioning a safe of some sort.
I’ll roll with Craig and 96 on that caution. Is there anything Jackley could have said today that would have suppressed any second-guessing or conspiracy theorizing?
That said, I’m still curious about the phone and the evidence trail that Verizon let go cold.
I can just about guarantee the federal gubmint has all of these phone calls recorded somewhere to investigate for suspicious activities. They have been doing these recordings since early in dumbass dubya’s unelected presidency.
I look at and wonder why kill the kids. I also heard on TV he was building another house. The stand alone gym was worth $900,000 and the house $1,200,000. Follow the money.
Verizon is more likely compelled to comply with the feds’ requests than share data with a political figure like Jackley, right?
And Scott, can heat cause a phone to malfunction that way?
Old Guy, yes, Westerhuis apparently was building a second house. Jackley did not say where—he tight-lipped about anything beyond the investigation of the killings and fire.
Larry, I’m not sure: a subpoena is a subpoena, whether it comes from Jackley or from US Attorney Seiler. Jackley did say the US Attorney and the feds are working with the state on the financial investigation.
If Westerhuis had any important papers,deeds,mortgages etc they would be stored in a fireproof safe. If gun barrels didn’t melt down,then the fire wasn’t hot enough to melt a safe. Just common sense. If no safe was found it was because it was removed or never existed.
Cheating is clearly a feature of the Westerhuis murders. It would be irresponsible not to suspect the worst.
Such tragedy. Arm chair QB’ing is just coffee clatter on a blog. Steel Shot. Safe falls thru floor. hot spots. Clothing not entirely consumed. Variables are endless. leave conclusions to pro investigators but if politically untrustworthy, we are all in trouble.
According to WIKI,Winchester never made Charles Daly shotguns. Can’t find any connection between Daly and Winchester.
Oh to have the time to spend in Platte tonight with a few hundos to get the locals tongues to start moving. I’m sure a few locals could tell us a lot.
He had to reload this gun.
he would have had to kill nichole and two girls lying in bed with one shot to leave one in the magazine to “burn off.”
While we all ask, why kill everyone and burn down the house, if you do a google search for “murder suicide burn house” you’d be surprised to find quite a few happened around the country just this year. Apparently, it isn’t as rare as we seem to think.
Miroku Corp made shotguns for Browning and rifles for Winchester. Charles Daly ,at one time,sold Miroku shotguns.
What are the chances that a run of the mill South Dakotan would be knowledgeable enough to use an accelerant that can’t be readily identified?
Did the Westerhuis girls sleep with mom as a usual school night occasion? Where was Scott gonna sleep if the girls were in bed with Mom?
2 security systems. That sounds like somebody was very nervous or scared.
If you build this type of home and install 2 security systems, you certainly would have a safe that would withstand a major fire. Good Safes are heavy and not easily moveable. So I doubt the safe was moved out of the home by Scott on his own.
I would be inclined to suspect the fire was set as a cover up and I doubt Scott set the fire.
You can bet Nicole knew what was going on. You can not be living this type of life and not know something is not right. You can not eat steaks when your income is only sufficient for hotdogs.
Larry—”clearly”? How so? What evidence makes that clear to you?
Scott: good observation about security systems and safes.
Mike, on the location of the bodies: It is possible Scott moved the bodies to the beds before torching the house and killing himself. His moving the bodies would not change the state’s narrative. It might make its own coherent supporting narrative: Westerhuis thought maybe he could disguise his crime by making it look like a fire, not murder… but then would he be so stupid as to kill himself in the kitchen? Wouldn’t he try one more step to cover his suicide?
As a rule, law enforcement don’t believe in coincidences and neither do I.
There are too many similar circumstances between the Benda suicide and scandal and the Westheruis suicide/murder MCEC scandal.
Seven people are dead, two of them supposedly by suicide, millions of dollars are missing from the EB-5 scandal and thousands more missing from MCEC.
Now, Jackley and the state of South Dakota come to the same conclusion in both cases, big shock.
As long as Jackley doesn’t reveal all aspects of the investigation, including autopsies and the status of the financial investigations, the flames will continue to be fanned.
Jackley could put an end to it all just by revealing the truth and being forthright with South Dakotans.
I’d be surprised if the safe is even relevant at all. With such spending surrounding the situation, i don’t think there was anything to put in a safe. Most embezzlement cases involve unsustainable spending habits. Any important papers would fit in a file cabinet safe which are mostly plastic molded with a heat resistant core. They wouldn’t last the fire, nor would the contents. Even a heavy duty steel safe would be lucky to save the contents, but you would still find a crumpled structure if the roof fell in on it after extreme heat. My top of the line gun safe wouldn’t save my guns in a fire like that, but i would still be able to make it out and what the contents were. Any documents would be roasted. I think the financial investigation may shed more light, and I think the only reason they aren’t considering Nichole is because there is absolutely nothing they have found to point to her. That may change after they check the books. The phone things seems weird as well. I always thought Verizon would have that. If anything is found to implicate someone else after the combined investigation of the financial records, I would imagine they would revisit the possibility of something happening by a 3rd party. I don’t see that at this point because it appears to be the end of a faux lifestyle that someone couldn’t bear to watch crumble.
I agree with DB: i think the safe is a red herring. Scott was up to his areolae and my gut says an affair will come out in the feds’ findings.
That the mechanism is readily available for exploit within the murky realm of red state welfare seems like the real story to me.
A fairly good fire proof file cabinet (2 drawer at $1200) is rated to last a 1 hr fire and and is rated impact resistant. Papers would be legible after such a fire.
The most telling fact of both these widespread corruption scandals, where millions were lost? Not one person charged, indicted, or convicted.
Would that be the case if we did not have a Rounds/Daugaard crony for an AG? Why hasn’t Jackley gone after Bollen for stealing state records as aggressively as he did Bosworth (No, she was NOT a victim)? Why hasn’t he gone after all the other players in these scandals?
How two teenagers were easily dispatched by gunfire remains a mystery.
Someone had a gun to Scott’s head besides Scott, right?
I agree with Disgusted, the common denominator in both these cases are that no charges have resulted from numerous various investigations and audits.
Even after the FBI supposedly closed their investigation we have not been privy to any results.
Let us hope that the Gear Up investigation doesn’t result in suicides and murder the way the two ongoing investigations have.
I know the 2 people that saw one of the vehicles that was on the highway with its lights off and didn’t move despite the sirens coming from behind it and I know they were not one of the 26 people to be interviewed so my first question is if the investigators lied about that piece..what else are they lying about? 2nd…since marty jackleys office is not new to murder investigation/suicide then why in the Hell wouldn’t they have had a court order to seize all electronic information as soon as they knew this was a murder investigation?????? I put this all out there early in the case just because I was worried that the investigating team mite not know this tech family and miss this step and really??? Really? Who is working this case? °DROPPED THE BALL!!! Despite the fact that all of the employees were so distraught after this terrible tragedy that one of them suddenly decided to cancel cell service? I pay my cell bill by the month!!! What was the rush????
I hate rabbit holes. They suck up energy and focus. But try to fill in the details with your imagination because no other facts are allowed to be available to you
From all sources, the Westerhuis family was a loving and supportive family — except for the lying and cheating that pumped money into the pockets of the political bosses, and only Nicole and Scott were aware of that. Not the kids.
Ever read “In Cold Blood”? Capote creates a narrative of chaos, based on interviews with the two killers. Parents and children are separated into their rooms. The killers did their horrid deeds going from one room to the next. In the Westerhuis situation, a father is supposed to have controlled and murdered sons, daughters and a wife and then himself, just before he lighted an accelerant that nobody knows anything about except that a trained dog seemed to have reacted to a scent. Toss into this the 2:57 a.m. phone call from the home landline to Nicole’s cell. This indicates the killings must have started about this time. Less than three hours later, someone notifies 911 there is a big fire at the Westerhuis place.
What happened before 2:57 a.m.?
None of this would be worthy of speculation except millions of federal dollars (again) were dispersed without accountability and into the hands of political pals. That (again) creates the strong possibility of motive. The downside (again) is dead people tell no tales. How convenient for the living who benefited from the criminal activity (again).
And then there’s a safe which has gone missing. A SAFE!!! Think about it, folks. If a safe was found after the fire, it would have been too hot to handle for at least 12 hours. It had to have been removed before the fire. Think about all of this. Now think about a plausible sequence of events.
No wonder they prayed before the political press conference.
I finished reading “In The Spirit of Crazy Horse” a couple of months ago. I keep wondering how the FBI could have spent the thousands of hours in what started out as looking for one person, Leonard Peltier, as a suspected murderer and yet, at least to the public eye or knowledge has not turned one lick to investigate the goings on of our State government for the past 13 years. This looks like it is going to be just like the financial crisis, for which not one banker or financial adviser went to prison. In this case all we have is the “alleged” perps end up dead and the State’s chief legal beagle quickly ends the investigations by saying that in both cases the “alleged” perps committed suicide. How convenient.
If Westerhuis wanted the contents of the safe destroyed by the fire but wanted the fire to look like an accident, he’d have to get rid of the empty safe.
“mike from iowa” wrote:
>“I can just about guarantee the federal gubmint has all of these phone calls recorded somewhere to investigate for suspicious activities. They have been doing these recordings since early in ——- dubya’s unelected presidency.”
Longer than that, but I doubt the intelligence community would risk turning them over to any state government official, including the attorney general.
>“Did the Westerhuis girls sleep with mom as a usual school night occasion?”
Maybe they were scared because Daddy was acting crazy.
So how do they know it’s a voice mail left on Nicole’s phone if they can’t recover it? If they are using home phone records and don’t have cell phone records then how do they know she didn’t answer??
Kurt Evans,if Daddy was acting crazy and this was not normal.why no 911 calls to alert authorities or even alert a friend or neighbor?
Another suicide without a suicide note? Only in South Dakota?
Cory,methinks it is just as possible there were three hitmen who knew the layout,avoided the cameras and one killer killed the females,the boys and the third killed Dad and started the fire.
What I don’t see is what the possible motive for either situation,yet.
BTW-where does one keep mortgages,wills and deeds if not in a fireproof safe? No mention of safe deposit box.
Tip o’ the hat to Manfred Mann-
In a dream it would seem
I went to those who close the open door
Turning the key, I sat and spoke to those inside of me
They answered my questions with questions
And pointed me into the night
Where the moon was a star-painted dancer
And the world was just a spectrum of light
They reached to my center of reason
And pulled on the touchstone that’s there
The shock of that light had me reeling
And I fell into the depths of despair
They answered my questions with questions
And set me to stand on the brink
Where the sun and the moon were as brothers
And all that was left was to think
They answered my questions with questions
And pointed me into the night
The power that bore me had left me alone
To figure out which way was right
Fireman: “So how do they know it’s a voice mail left on Nicole’s phone if they can’t recover it? If they are using home phone records and don’t have cell phone records then how do they know she didn’t answer??”
My Hypothesis: That last phone call at 2:57 am was to locate that, “last damn phone somewhere in the house”, so no chance of evidence on the phones; “they”, terminated the Verizon acct or knew what would happen (Verzion dumped the data) as in this incident. It just closes off one more trail. Lots of things and circumstances left to look into.
nods to Disgusted Dakotan
Fireman, I would assume one can get the metadata from Verizon saying voicemail was activated, even if the data—the content of the call itself—is deleted.
Sometimes security goes to the utility company that monitors businesses and homes under contracts. West Central Electric? has such a program and I think other providers do as well. If the alarm is tripped because of anything like fire and such, they notify the owner and the authorities. Maybe that was the call, did the police get a call at the same time?
just stirring the pot….
i have a box plugged into my phone jack that calls my cell if the temp drops near freezing in the house or if the temp jumps to quickly. my security system also calls a cell phone first if there is an alarm….
Interesting, Roger! Westerhuis did have two security systems in the house. The landline could have had any number of security/monitoring features.
But two security systems—what the heck was he worried about?
I almost hate to comment again since I don’t wish to add any kindling… but if people use simple logic and reason you can typically find many possible answers to the “unknowns” that seem to be confusing everyone.
1. A missing safe. First of all the term “safe” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It could be a gun safe, it could be a portable safe, it could be a small lockbox. I keep important paperwork in a wooden cabinet – not a safe. I dare say I’m not alone here and most people don’t keep all of their vital records locked up in a fireproof box. I also have a gun “safe” but it is not fired rated and is merely a metal box to ensure guns aren’t accessible to kids etc, but in the event of a fire those guns would be destroyed (that would be the least of my concern). I have two smaller safes one of which has a fire rating the other does not – thus if my house burned up today, you MIGHT find remnants of the one but the others would simply be metal boxes that could have been crushed or even partially melted depending upon how close they are to a gas line or what falls on top of them as the home collapses etc. Any paperwork in side of a typical safe – even one with a short fire rating – would be entirely consumed and burned (you can find all types of footage on YouTube showing you how worthless many so-called “fireproof” safes really are).
That being said unless investigators were specifcally looking for a safe (and why would they initially) it could easily be overlooked amongst the rubble and debris since at this point it might just be a deformed chuck of steel that would be difficult to distinguish from an old toaster. We cannot assume what existed, and this isn’t the movies where safes are all made from two inch thick steel and concrete reinforced walls with a big “ACME SAFE” logo embossed on the front.
2. Security systems. It is not uncommon to have one true security system (fire, entry, temp, glass break sensors etc.) and a second video surrveliance system that is in no way connected to the security system. This would be two distinct systems and is very common these days. However, unless the video was stored offsite via cloud storage, the DVR would be destroyed in a fire and the footage useless. Another option would be if the detached gym had cameras and a standalone recorder which is considered the second security system (the first being attached to the home). This is perhaps the more likely event since the AG indicated no survelliance indicated anyone else was around (meaning they probably have video footage from the gym which may show the fire or cover the driveway etc.). Either way easily explained.
3. A call to a cell phone. It would not be uncommon for a security system to call a mobile phone to alert of a fire alarm within the home. My own system has this feature and can call me (or any number I choose) for any alarm event. This if the fire was already started and the system called Nicole’s phone to send an alert it would be understandable. Even if the security system was not active (meaning they didn’t pay for a monitoring service) it can still work in this manner as it would be hooked to the landline.
Another theory would be that one of the children heard noises and called their mother. If you think this is a stretch you aren’t a parent in the year 2015, because I will tell you first hand that I have communicated via phone with my kids many times even though we are under the same roof. Younger kids often don’t have their own cell phones but the speed dial on the landline / cordless allows them to reach us via one button. Easily explained – and even more probable in a large home.
4. Accelerant. If someone wishes to burn their home down they would most liekly use an accelerant and the most common accelerant would be gasoline or diesel fuel. I imagine a country home having ample access to both. Had this been a city home where the fire was extinguished within 20 minutes there would be more traces left behind, but as it were the home likely burned for several hours before the 911 call was placed. Looking at the images of what remained shows it was a consuming fire and had ample time to burn off the accelerant making it difficult to find in testing as there simply wasn’t much left of the home aside from concrete and metal. The home also used propane which likely would have also resulted in some areas near gas lines to burn much hotter as the gas contributed to the fire – thus making tracing such accelerants more difficult. It stands to reason someone wishing to burn down their home would use a fuel source to ensure the home would burn and hopefully hide evidence of his horrific crimes. This is not hard to believe and really has no bearing because we know the house burned complete and reason suggests something was used to ensure that fire would spread throughout the home regardless if they are able to accuratly identify the specific accelerant used.
5. Lack of a suicide note. If someone is going to burn a house down, leaving a paper note wouldn’t do much good. Also, there is reason to believe someone in this mindset may believe they could stage a fire and make it appear everything was one big accident. That isn’t logical of course, but it isnt logical to kill your family all due to some personal struggles either. Sometimes we can’t explain things and try as we might we will never be able to. That doesnt serve as evidence of a greater conspiracy – it simply means we may not understand human behavior as well as we would like.
6. Missing voice mail. This is the one that really gets the conspiracy nuts fired up, because according to reports they hear on cable news or things they have heard from Edward Snowden, all of our conversations are recorded 100% of the time so clearly the cell provider should be able to retrieve those conversations right? Sorry, but the real world doesn’t work like that. Technology companies do what is legally mandated, but considering their account was closed they would have no reason to retain voicemails even if they existed. If anything, this should serve as evidence that there isn’t some vast conspiracy because to suggest someone is covering things up would not mean a vast number of employees at the cell phone provider are also involved in this cover-up. Not very likely. More often than not the most logical answer is the correct one – the contract was cancelled, all voicemails deleted and the account was closed. That data is not backed up or retrievable beyond a few days later for security reasons as the cell company takes steps to reduce their risk and minimize losses in the event of a data breach.
7. A lack of logic. I see a lot of comments here and elsewhere suggesting that it defies logic for a man to kill his entire family. A see comments suggesting kids wouldn’t have just laid there allowing themselves to be shot. I see comments suggesting one of them could have ran or called 911 etc. All of this is based upon logic – but events like this defy logic. If a child is awoke at 1:00am they may not understand what is going on as they are confused or scared. It is also possible the kids never woke up or that they trusted their father and their confusion kept them in place until it was too late to react. If a man kills his family he clearly isn’t worried about what it might look like. If he burns his home down thinking he might be able to cover this up, he likely isn’t thinking that someone might find some shotgun pellets or be able to determine he shot himself merely because a shotgun was in close proximety to the body. Logic doesn’t factor into tragedies like this one, and sadly we have precedent to show us that these types of events aren’t even that unique. We fail to understand it and we cannot rationalize it – but that is because we try to use logic to solve illogical questions.
Finally, we get back to this entire idea of a conspiracy where the suggestion is made that government officials and/or other third parties would have killed the entire family in order to cover up other misdeeds. I’ll be up front and admit that I think anyone who believes these types of theories is intellectually challenged and should probably refrain from operating heavy machinery for their own safety, but aside from that such theories don’t pass the smell test.
There would be far easier ways to kill someone or silence them than to show up in the middle of the night, murder an entire family, stage a suicide, burn down a house, and escape into the night being 100% undected by anyone or anything. Not to mention that murdering the “accomplice” doesn’t eliminate the paper or electronic trail and would be one very small piece of a puzzle. It also doesn’t explain the timing as if everything had to be cleaned up that very night instead of taking time to sanitize records (Westerhuis didn’t lose his job and still had access to records and facilities).
Once again I point to Occam’s Razor: that among competing theories, the one with the fewest assumptions should be chosen. This tells us that barring any evidence to suggest otherwise, the most logical assumption here – and the one which apparently is supported by many facts and all available evidence – is that Scott Westerhuis murdered his wife and his four children before setting his home ablaze and shooting himself in some attempt to make everything look like an accident.
There is your story. That is your narrative. Yes it is ugly and yes we struggle to accept it, but that is what it is. We can fabricate all of these wild stories and ask questions surrounding every detail. We can repeat what a cousin read on facebook posted by a former classmate’s sister’s hairdresser that heard from her neighbor about what really happened, and we can read into what details have been released trying to find potential plot holes that we can twist and massage into a greater story if for no other reason than we want our 12 years of religiously watching CSI on television to count for something… but at the end of the day we still have the most sensible answer (and the only one supported by the mountains of evidence) right in front of us. We are entitled to our own opinions of course, but the desire to make this out to me more than it is appears to be for our own personal enjoyment and entertainment than towards any sense of finding the “truth” or seeking “justice”.
It is time to respect the family and stop with the speculating. Focus more on facts and less on fiction and stop trying to compare or link this tragedy to some other random event throughout South Dakota history.
Too many loose ends and unanswered questions still exist for such an “absolute decision” to have already been reached by AG Jackley:
1. Neighbor sees suspicious vehicle parked in driveway before sunrise on Sept 17.
2. Final autopsy reports finds no soot in airways of the six family members.
3. Phone message cannot be recovered due to Mid Central terminating cell phone service.
4. Safe cannot be located – AG offers safe completely burned up excuse.
An accountant has expert knowledge of the needed type of “non-identifiable accelerant” and the physical ability/endurance to disperse an adequate quantity of the accelerant throughout a 7,000+ square foot residence after allegedly killing his wife and four children; accountant then ignites a fire which burns the structure to the ground — a fire that burns for 7-hours while firefighters attempt to control the blaze, but while doing so the accountant does not inhale any smoke or soot from the fire prior to squeezing trigger killing himself ?????????????
Evidently, just saying so does make it so here in the “MOST CORRUPT STATE IN USA”.
I’d be willing to guess that if Jackley is mentioning a safe, they have belief that there is real safe. Generally rich (or people who act rich), have decently sized safes and from time to time tend to show them off to people.
As for the 2 security systems, it could be a camera/alarm system it could be that they had a base system and then added another one, could be a house/property different safe. I’m not too alarmed on the 2 different security systems.
I think the conclusion is right, that its a murder/suicide.
The questions I’d still like to know.
1. What other properties did he own/ this is public record should be easy to find.
2. Jackley said the property has now been released, to whom? Is there a life insurance policy that is/could/will be paid out?
When things like this happen you always have to look at the most reasonable answer. That is he killed his family, then burned the house down and shot himself.
I hope a financial audit explains more things.
But I think some good reporting could explain some things. Step away from the conspiracy and find the simple things and then maybe a conspiracy will be found in the process.
I do agree with a previous comment about $100 at a bar in Platte could explain a bunch.
Although Marty Jackleg pronounced that the investigation was complete and “closure” was about to descend, Bob Mercer carefully pointed out in his report the contradictions Jackley provided to that pronouncement. He stressed the questions that “investigators can’t or won’t yet answer. Scott Westerhuis had an hour-long conversation on his cell phone as he drove toward his home. Jackley would not reveal who that conversation was with, although sources reported it was with Mid-Central director Dan Guericke. The content and nature of that conversation is obviously relevant to establishing the state of mind of Westerhuis and his specific responses to the cancellation of the Gear Up contract. Although Jackley dismissed the absence of a safe on the premises, he did not explain why he knew there was one and what significance it had. He leaves out facts that would be revealed to people in any other state, and people go off on their speculations rather than demanding accountability from the people they elected to serve them.
Contrast the handling of this case with that of the Minnetonka man who murdered his family a few days earlier than the Westerhuis murders because of financial problems. http://www.startribune.com/documents-shotgun-bought-a-day-or-two-before-lake-minnetonka-murder-suicide/328731881/
Or with the reporting on the Fox Lake, Ill., police officer who triggered a huge manhunt, but whose death turned out to be a staged suicide connected with his embezzling police funds. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/11/04/illinois-police-officer-whose-death-prompted-a-manhunt-was-killed-in-a-carefully-staged-suicide-officials-say/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_illnoiscop-1120am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory
Will the people of South Dakota ever come to the realization of how badly their officials jerk them around and do something about it? It’s just another reason to abandon the state.
Life insuarance usually does not pay out for suicides less than 2-3 years after the policy is purchased. If a new policy is acquired the clock gets reset to zero.
Regarding Accelerants. There was a Russian plane that went down the other day and there is speculation that it may have been due to something on board as well as other theories. I would think that the ATF should have been brought in to identify this accelerant as it may be something new and therefore easy to bring into commercial travel as well. Where are the FEDs? Marty is to corrupt to be believed.
Guymon: “Final autopsy reports finds no soot in airways of the six family members.”
Amazing how when someone dies their lungs cease to function isn’t it? The point of Jackley’s statement is to show evidence that all six family members died from gunshot wounds rather than from smoke inhalation or fire – it explains that they died quickly and didn’t burn to death but rather were killed prior to the fire.
This isn’t rocket surgery.
As far as this “suspicious vehicle” I’ve seen that rumor change from a vehicle on the road leading to the residence to a vehicle leaving the residence and now a vehicle parked in the driveway. Neat how rumors change over time.
This all proves my point that no matter what questions are answered people will continue to believe whatever crazy theory they started with while professing that there are “too many unanswered questions”. There will ALWAYS be unanswered questions because the only people that were there to witness all the details are now deceased.
Very interesting Craig, that even the shooter was soot free. Set a huge fire with and not breathe, not even a particle, that is more than amazing, it is one of those only in South Dakota thingys.
James Nord @Jvnord “FBI and DOE inspector general decline to say if they are part of state-federal investigation into GEAR UP. State AG declined to name agency.”
Craig, You must not be from SD. Only here, can two “suicides” involving State Government, with no suicide notes, have their investigations closed within a couple of weeks, even with all the commensurate irregularities surrounding the investigation. Most of us here have learned when the story smells like crapola, usually it tends to be just that.
But if there was an insurance policy on the family or on the kids and parents with an outside benefactor would it get paid out? I know Suicide doesn’t pay out, but does murder?
I’m sure either way the insurance company would be looking into it. But there hasn’t been any mention of it.
There hasn’t been any mention of a will, a probate lawyer, next of kin, who the property is going to be released to. Any of that stuff.
Also why mention the phone calls in that much detail if you aren’t going to release who and subject of the phone call?
I was disappointed with the press conference, I was expecting either more evidence, or more dialog
I am puzzled, Jerry, as to how a dog can detect an accelerant, we can verify that it was an accelerant, but we can’t identify the accelerant.
But I’m with Craig on soot and suspicious vehicles. A guy could light a fire and then kill himself before the fire really started emitting smoke. I also have not seen anyone stepping forward with firm evidence of a suspicious vehicle or provide details that would establish what makes any particular vehicle “suspicious.”
Everyone was dead before fire means it was murder and not a suicide.
Cory if memory serves,you get plenty of smoke immediately with diesel fuel and probably with gas as well. Westerhuis would have to have been meticulous to use a can to spread the accelerant and then place the can away from the fire. Maybe he used plastic container. I’m guessing there still should be some molten plastic residue somewhere close by.
Jackle said there was a shotgun shell in the gun close by. Brass has a low melting point. If the fire was hot enough to melt a safe I can’t see a brass shell not melting.
If the jughead would release more info we could clear these little mysteries up. So maybe they don’t want them cleared up.
The dog is trained to detect various compounds that can be used as accelerants. There are generally two types, petroleum based and organics. These same compounds may also be present in the home and not be a part of the alleged arson. Paint thinner, certain mastics or glues, lamp oil, rubbing alcohol and various other may be` in the home. I’m not clear if the kitchen area fell into the basement and if the kitchen was determined to be the area of origin. Wasn’t there an ATF investigator on scene also? That report would be make interesting reading in comparison with the “official” results released.
It is very easy to set a delay on the start of the fire using common household products. You can delay the start anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending upon how you do it. That would explain the absence of soot in the lungs.
Joe,maybe the will and the insurance policy were left with his/familys lawyer.
WR Old Guy,but again would one expect an ordinary Joe to know enough about delaying arson such as you describe?
Well, a few leaders in the South Dakota Democratic Party have some guts:
The arson doesn’t need to be delayed. You could spread gas across a room, throw a match in it, watch it flame for 20 seconds and kill yourself. You aren’t going to have any smoke in your lungs. It’s not going to be instant and unless you are standing in the fire, it will take a little while for the smoke to saturate your breathing space. Insurance and personal matters of where property is going is not any of our business unless that becomes evidence in a financial case because it may have been funded through ill-gotten gains. I doubt the insurance company is going to pay out and I doubt the next of kin will contest that. The property is no longer a crime scene and that is all they are indicating. Fires are weird. This was a large one. Depending on how things go, items can get covered, fall through the floor and be sheltered from heat. It’s possible to have items with low melting points be almost completely intact and items with high melting points completely disintegrated. Nowadays, houses are so packed full of hydrocarbons and synthetic materials they are extremely dangerous in the event of a fire. A brass shell left in the chamber of a shotgun surround buy a barrel and action has a very high likelihood of surviving a fire. Accelerants are identified by dogs through residue. It’s possible it was detected but it couldn’t be identified for a variety of reasons. The ATF knows what they are doing when it comes to this sort of thing. This wasn’t some mysterious new material that no one knows about.
@jerry – you don’t get quantifiable amounts of soot in your lungs from spending a few seconds near a fire. So yes – someone could light a fire and then kill themselves without any soot in their lungs. Not sure you have ever witnessed an indoor fire, but the fire itself will travel up the walls and across the ceiling… the byproducts of a fire fill the air above and move downward which is why the fire safety training given to first graders tells them to get on their hands and knees and crawl out of the structure to avoid the smoke.
Thus Westerhuis could have easily started a fire and shot himself long before smoke inhalation could be of a concern.
@Lanny – I am from South Dakota and even though I attend public schools with underpaid teachers I still was able to receive a good education allowing me to focus upon fact and the scientific method rather than basing comments upon rumor and conspiracy theories.
@Cory – my understanding is that the dog detected an accelerant, but they weren’t able to confirm it. That in itself isn’t that hard to believe, because this was a consuming fire – it burned everything down to the ground. Had the fire been extinguished after a short time there would be more evidence to test but as it were what is left is some rubble and debris which fell into the basement. When materials are burned down to a small pile testing and finding accellerants is understandably more difficult.
Let’s also take into account that such dogs can make mistakes and give false positives (much like humans). The dog could have smelled an area that was a former bathroom which contained a bottle of acetone (nail polish remover) or some chemicals that were under the kitchen sink before being consumed by the fire. The dog could also have triggered on other materials that were part of the structure and wouldn’t be out of place such as any petroleum based product. It would seem more likely that an accelerant was used because anyone wishing for a fire to consume a structure would most likely use one, but they aren’t always able to be confirmed especially in a fire which results in the total loss of a structure. Clearly there wasn’t much left of the home and the entire upper floor and roof collapsed into the basement. The fire was large enough and hot enough to burn for that long and consume almost everything includeing the roofing shingles – it stands to reason finding the point of origin of such a fire is next to impossible. Even most modern gas cans are plastic and would be consumed by the fire. We shouldn’t be surprised nor disappointed that every detail cannot be confirmed.
Honestly some of the comments I read regarding this story remind me of a statement made by the late George Carlin. “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”
First it is a terrible tragedy. Second it seems that some are confusing facts with conclusions. It seems that in one of the early days the fact was reported that Scott did have soot in his lungs, now that is no longer a fact. The fact that a safe is missing has been introduced during the press conference by Marty. He seems to firmly believe this as he wants anyone with information as to its whereabouts to call his office. I do appreciate everyones views and the reporting that is shining light on the GEAR Up fiasco. Craig you have spent considerable time thinking about this and are firmly convinced in is a murder/suicide. I believe you may be correct, yet how do you reach the following conclusion and present it as a fact;
“because the only people that were there to witness all the details are now deceased.”
I don’t know that anyone has presented that fact. Craig, I am a skeptic because the same people who told us that the entire EB-5 mess was the fault of Richard Benda. Now, the State of South Dakota is going after information from Joop Bollen which they should have had to conduct a thorough investigation. In addition to that the USCIS has notified the State of South Dakota that the State can no longer have a Regional Center for the EB-5 program. The ones investigating the Westerhuis/GEAR UP/MCEC mess are the same ones who said Richard Benda is responsible. I am a skeptic, yet the Westerhuis tragedy will remain a mystery because as you say Craig of the ‘unanswered questions’. Unanswerable questions more like it.
Maybe if the fire was market-driven instead of consuming,investigators could have pinned it on Democrats.
Thank you Francis Schaffer. You wrote, “I am a skeptic because the same people who told us that the entire EB-5 mess was the fault of Richard Benda. Now, the State of South Dakota is going after information from Joop Bollen which they should have had to conduct a thorough investigation.” That is the point that I was trying to make to Craig with my snide remark about his not being from SD.
In both cases, I haven’t got a clue how the AG can say after two weeks or even two months that it is a suicide and essentially my investigation is done. We have cold cases that are reopened 30 0r 40 years after the fact, simply because inquiring minds want to know.
I am sickened by the fact that in SD we are ruled by a political party that at least nationally, likes to subscribe to the fact that we are governed by the rule of law, but there is no law in the wild wild west of South Dakota, at least when it comes to government.
Mike, you can find a lot of things easily on the internet including arson sets, bomb construction and other nasty things. At one time you could go to your local library and read the Anarchists Cookbook. Some of the old sets are no longer viable due to technology. One that comes to mind was attaching a kitchen match and a striking surface to the striker that rang the bells in the telephone. You set the place up, spread the accelerant and trailers and left. You could be a hundred miles away, call the phone in the building thus causing the match to ignite and start the fire. You had the perfect alibi as you were out of town.
Daniel is correct in his points on dropping the match and having a window of time to pull the trigger before there is soot or high carbon monoxide in the lungs. Bear in mind that an accelerant did not have to be used. I assume (yes I know what that word means) that the house had a lot of interior volume such as an open floor plan and vaulted or cathedral ceilings. A fire requires oxygen to burn and a large interior volume provides that. A fire starting in the kitchen normally burns rapidly once the cabinets start burning. You could put a pan of cooking oil on the stove, turn the burner to high and you will have a fire when the oil reaches it’s ignition temperature. The fire only has to produce enough heat and pressure (smoke and combustion gasses build up pressure) to break a window or two to insure a source of oxygen to allow the fire to continue to burn thus destroying the structure.
What Craig doesn’t realize in his calling any speculation or theory dumb or stupid is that he is actually doing the same thing with what he calls his scientific research and logic.
His observations are no different than anybody else’s, except that his protracted explanations add nothing to the unanswered questions.
Craig hasn’t identified himself as being a insider and part of this investigation, therefore his speculations are just that, speculations. He can call them scientific or logic to make himself feel superior, but that does not change the fact that he is speculation, just like the rest of dumb asses.
– dispatching 2 teenage boys in the middle of the night in their beds, if they had headphones on, or were sound asleep, doable.
– mom hears shots, grabs girls, runs to her room to hide, or girls hear shots, run to mom out of confusion, or all 3 had fallen asleep in the bed watching a movie, it had been a stressful day overall in their house I’m sure, maybe she did have them sleeping with her to soothe them
– the mystery call – maybe not a mystery. maybe, after dispatching his family, he called his wife’s voicemail to hear her voice one more time.
people go off the rails and hurt other people. full family murder / suicides happen. and even if there is more to it, maybe there isn’t more evidence to prove it.
let their family have peace.
Craig, You certainly have it figured out it seems. I am wondering about the accellerant though. The other Craig brings that little nugget to attention. I have never started an indoor fire like you have so am wondering then, as you lite the fire, that you used an accellerant for, how did you avoid that soot that comes up when you first get it started? Me, I sometimes use some starter on my charcoal as I am not good with the paper approach. No matter how I do it, I inhale some of the stuff when I fire up the ol Weber. How did you do it when you started the house fires you have started? How did you manage to hold your breath while you were going about the house firing up the place? Were you excited as you did so with your adrenaline flowing or were you calm as a could be? I find that I am now in the category of dumb asses, that my friend Roger speaks, of which I feel I have very good company.
” I find that I am now in the category of dumb asses, that my friend Roger speaks, of”. We finally agree on something, Jerry!
The “war” on terror should have taught us one thing if nothing else. That 2:57 am phone call to Nicole’s phone could have triggered the fire. Cell phones are great triggers as we’ve seen multiples of times.
Thanks les, So, who made the call if the guy was already dead. The last thing in his hand was the cell phone and the trigger. Kind of like a branch but only weirder.
Pretty damn easy to be skeptical when considering the caliber of investigators South Dakota has put forth. I seriously doubt Jackley and crew could find their butts with either hand.
All of the scenarios written about for the cause of death work just as good if you consider a professional killer(s).
I have a new laptop that has a very aggressive auto-correct. When I write Jackley’s name it keeps changing it to Jackleg. It must know something. Here is a definition from the Oxford dictionary with which it correlates:
an incompetent, unskillful, or dishonest person: [ as modifier ] : a jackleg carpenter.
That brought a much needed chuckle, David. Good work
“So, who made the call if the guy was already dead.” Must be the guy with the red button. Obama, yea, it’s Obama’s fault.
Curses, Obama again! The man is always playing 11th dimensional chess to Jackley’s twiddly winks.
Very entertaining…this string of speculation.
How about…..looking at this from a perspective of what could be proven to a jury beyond reasonable doubt? We have heard from the AG..and his case. Weak at best.
The security system could have triggered the call from the home to Nicole cellphone. I would think that “what if” could be resolved.
Jackley asking if anybody has seen a safe around? A mystery to me. Credit card n bank records, friends, attorney, banker, family or the vendor that sold it to him, somebody that helped him haul it n install it?
I doubt the safe will support any other outcome, but I believe justice can help be served by finding it. Same with mystery phone call.
Craig definitely can put up some good points. But Craig, I too have seen many structure fires. Your assumption that fire progressed up walls etc?…maybe maybe not. To much damage in this fire to know any of that unless your a qualified fire investigator on site..even then as we all know hard to determine. If there was a safe destroyed totally in this fire I would be surprised. But I wasn’t there going thru the site. That’s a big home and who really knows.Craig stated we know fire was complete? I don’t know if VFD’s put water, foam, or what on structure. That impacts the scene.
But I’m don’t believe anyone else did this physical act.
But I hope Melmer, moore and others are not sleeping well.. they can blame an unstable husband and father all they want. They too have blood on their hands in my opinion.
W R Old Guy knows a lot and Daniel got it right “fires are weird”
And in the end this is really sad. I believe it all got to him and he lost his sanity.
Apparently the office filing cabinets survived. The safe fit in a drawer. It could have been out of the drawer and still in the debris or it could have been removed from the cabinet by someone.
W R Old Guy
As a fire with fatalities don’t you find it odd that according to the kelo link you listed there was a “close family friend” digging around this potential crime scene 2 days later? That close family friend even knew where the safe was in bottom file cabinet?
Jackley asked for help in this. Some he must believe it could have existed, perhaps from this “close family friend”?
Safe is such a broad term I’ve struggled with it.
Anybody put their “safe” in a file cabinet? Nope. Maybe a small tough portable fire resistant pistol case or document case. Don’t know if this matters…but the possibility of incriminating evidence in it is there.
That one refuses to add up… Rumor?
The part I don’t like is the voicemail. I’m not saying that there was anything incriminating in it, but the fact that it wasn’t immediately retrieved by investigators bothers me. Despite what the Argus Leader headline indicates (http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2015/11/05/43-second-message-likely-burned-phone-platte/75150270/) voicemails don’t burn up with the phone. That’s not how it works. That’s now how any of this works. Voicemails are kept on servers, which are located far away in hardened data centers with redundant drives and all sorts of measures to keep messages from being inadvertently lost. Destroying the physical phone will not destroy a voicemail message nor would a destroyed phone automatically cancel the account it was associated with. If investigators had been on the ball, they should have had days, if not weeks, to retrieve that message. If the voicemail is truly gone, then it is because they allowed someone to deactivate the account before they bothered to retrieve it.
I don’t mean to fuel the conspiracy fire, but this matter seems to be a major over site by investigators and is compounded by terrible job of relaying the details to the public. The fact that our AG and local newspaper is regurgitating this nonsense, which could have been cleared up by a teenager who works at a Best Buy, is unsettling to say the least. Not because it alludes to a conspiracy, but rather seems to show incompetence among people who should know better.
Jeff Barth: call out the cowards in SDDP!
@ Roger – Relying upon evidence, research, scientific data surrounding accelerants and fire, and the facts discovered during an investigation is not stupid. Ignoring all logic on the other hand doesn’t bode well for one’s critical thinking skills. Based upon many of the comments here I can only presume if people found their kitchen window broken and a baseball sitting on the counter they would automatically assume the baseball evolved from an orange and the broken window must be the fault of the Republican Party because they failed to pass legislation mandating bird strike resistent windows.
@ Jerry – Every human has soot and particulate in their lungs and that isn’t what a coroner would be measuring. The most common deaths from fire are not actually from the fire itself but rather from smoke inhalation. Had any of the victims died due to smoke inhalation that is what they would have discovered by examining their lungs and even if that person was a smoker it would appear vastly different. Thus the point, and your attempt to be cute with your comments doesn’t detract from the facts.
If you’re really interested you could start by researching physiopathology of smoke inhalation. You will quickly discover during fires people are forced to breath through their mouths due to the irritants which allows a greater number of particulants to enter the airway. Depending upon how long a person is exposed to fire and smoke will determine where the soot and particulants are found. I’m quite certain a trained MD and Coronor would know how to distinguish smoke inhalation from that of a casual smoker or someone who burned a burger on the grill recently, so no this is not indicitive of a smoking gun (pun not intended).
People are looking for anything they can to turn this into a larger conspiracy. However once again logic gets into the way, because if the state wanted to cover something up and if the parties involved wanted to kill a family to cover the misdeeds of a select few why would they then provide evidence that says that all of the victims were dead before the fire? That opens it up to questions from people who can’t be bothered to do a bit of research and who will automatically assume there was foul play at work here.
@ Spike – I’m going based upon the images provided of the structure. There was nothing left – not a frame of a portion of the home… the little debris that was left behind fell into the basement and appears to consist of primarily metal and ash. That tells me it was a consuming fire making evidence of accelerant difficult if not impossible to find. Metal objects and non-combustables would remain but may still be difficult to identify.
As to the safe, I go back to that whole concept of we haven’t been told what kind of “safe” existed. If it was a small document safe then in the bottom of a file cabinet seems logical. I can also see something like that going undiscovered – but perhaps more imporantly if someone was trying to hide their tracks wouldn’t they simply burn any documentation to ensure it was never found? I concede someone may not be thinking clearly as they are murdering their entire family and setting their home ablaze before taking their own life, but a missing safe is only important if the material contained within it could be recovered. It makes for interesting journalism, but in the scope of things I doubt it would make a difference even if it were found.
I think the conspiracy speculation comes from the similarities to the Benda case, the lack of trust in the officials running the investigation, and the disbelief that a father could have taken the lives of his family in such a manner. There also appears to be some bumbling in the investigation and our AG looks like an idiot trying relay information to the public. But that said, Craig is right in that we haven’t been presented with enough evidence to legitimatly speculate that this incident was anything but what it is purported to be. Regardless, right now it is a moot subject and no answers will likely come from any further speculation about the fire. Answers will come from the audits and investigations into the financial dealings of the GEAR UP program and the Westerhuis family.
The key piece of information that I don’t see yet is motive. Why was the ending of this contract so terrible for Westerhuis that he would rather he and his family die then to go out and find another job? If he were in a dire financial or legal situation, that information should be reflected in the financial records of the Westerhuis’ and the GEAR up program. If there were others involved that might have had a motive for murder, there should be a trail of money that leads to them. Right now, the watchful eye of the media and the public needs to shift from the fire to the finances. Cui bono?
It takes at least 2 people to make a conspiracy. All of these “scandals” involve more than two people,therefore we have a conspiracy.
“Mike from iowa” wrote:
>“Kurt Evans,if Daddy was acting crazy and this was not normal.why no 911 calls to alert authorities or even alert a friend or neighbor?”
I obviously don’t know, but there are many possible reasons.
I believe the home security system used the landline to notify the cell phone of the fire? I understand that is how many systems work however I don’t own one myself.