Man arrested in Vadnais Heights triple murder

12:55 PM, Oct 15, 2010   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A 43-year-old Minnesota man who allegedly threatened to kill his wife two years ago was in custody Thursday on pending murder charges after authorities found his wife and two of their children dead in the family's two-bedroom apartment.

Authorities went to the apartment in Vadnais Heights late Wednesday after a relative asked them to check on the family's welfare. Deputies found the woman dead in the bathroom, and the bodies of the 9-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy in separate bedrooms, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said.

"The scene is horrific because we don't know for sure how long they've been dead," Fletcher said.

The husband was missing, along with the couple's 4-year-old girl, Fletcher said. A statewide bulletin was issued, but the husband had already been arrested in southern Minnesota for alleged impaired driving.

Fletcher said the husband confessed and that murder charges that could be filed as early as Friday. The 4-year-old girl is safe. The names of the victims are the wife, 32-year-old Bilha Omare, 12-year-old Kinley Ogendi and 9-year-old Ivyn Ogendi.

"Any time that children, innocent children, are victimized it's a tragedy," Fletcher said. "But it really is a horrific tragedy when it's at the hands of their own parents."

Authorities were awaiting autopsy results before releasing a cause of death. Fletcher said there was no evidence of gunshot wounds and that there was no extensive bleeding involved in the children's deaths.

"It appears the mother has been dead for a longer period of time," Fletcher said, adding that it's possible the children were kept in the apartment while the mother's body was in the bathroom. The woman did not report to work all week, he said, and the children did not go to school.

"Someone called in and indicated they were sick," he said of the children. He did not know who made that call.

The husband has a prior arrest for domestic assault. According to a sheriff's incident report, authorities went to the third-floor apartment in December 2008, and the woman told them the husband pushed her across the room, threatened to hit her with a vacuum, and threatened to kill her. The woman also said he had beaten her unconscious when the couple lived in Kenya and that she was afraid for her life, the report said.

Authorities say the crime speaks to a larger issue about the local immigrant population and domestic abuse.

"I'm just saying we need to do a better job of reaching out to our immigrant communities that are here," said Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.

Carol Arthur with the Domestic Abuse Project says while domestic abuse does not discriminate, women in some cultures face even greater obstacles.

"If you have a culture of community that believes men are in charge and men get to control their wives and children, sometimes by use of violence, then you're more likely to have domestic violence," Arthur said.

She said it highlights the need for education about options -- including information about the crisis hotline number: 1.866.223.1111, and other domestic assault resources available.

Meantime -- in relation to the 2008 incident involving this family, the husband denied ever abusing his wife, and told the deputy he loved her but she was mean to him, the report said. Online court records show the assault charges were dropped after he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

There have been no police reports at the apartment since then, Fletcher said.

The couple is from Kenya, and Fletcher said the husband has been in the U.S. for 10 years. The 2008 incident report said he's been in the U.S since 1996.

More than an hour before Ramsey County authorities discovered the bodies, the State Patrol got a call about a stalled vehicle blocking a lane on Interstate 35 in southern Minnesota, said Lt. Eric Roeske. The car had run out of gas.

Roeske said the husband saw the squad car coming and ran away, leaving his young daughter behind with a citizen who had stopped to help. The trooper called social services for the child and found the husband about a mile away. The trooper said it seemed the husband was impaired by drugs or alcohol, and arrested him for impaired driving, Roeske said, then authorities learned he was wanted in the triple homicide.

Fletcher said the husband was transferred to Ramsey County custody.

Neighbors in the apartment complex expressed shock at the news. Amanda Sjostrand, an assistant manager at the building, said her children were playmates with the victims.

"The children were just beautiful, beautiful caring children," she said. "They played with my two children and the rest of the children in the apartment building as well. They just had a gorgeous heart."

Fletcher said the prior assault allegation shows there were issues at the home, "however we are continuing to look at what triggered this violent outburst. We do believe we have some possible motives, but nothing that could remotely justify these types of actions."

(Copyright 2010 by KARE & Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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