HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The daughter of the man police hold responsible for a multiple murder-suicide in a Montana log cabin said her father had long been in denial about having mental health problems, which ultimately became dangerous.
“People tried to tell him he needed to get help,” 35-year-old Starla Shannon said Wednesday. “He said he’d rather go to a vet than a doctor.”
Police say Augustine “Mike” Bournes shot his wife and their three young children in the head before setting fire to their rural home and shooting himself Sunday.
Shannon, of Aztec, New Mexico, said she believed her father loved his family, even though he had cut off communication with relatives and friends years ago.
Interviews with Shannon, Bournes’ ex-wife of 33 years, Darla Schuppan, and acquaintances and authorities in southwestern Montana tell the story of a man with anti-government views who killed his family and himself after calling someone he knew to say that his wife, Arie Arlynn Lee, had been “mocking and riding him all day.”
Bournes lay down next to his children’s bodies, which he had lined up together on a bed, before killing himself, Anaconda-Deer Lodge police say.
His daughter said he had realized a dream by building a log cabin and moving to Montana with Lee and their children.
Bournes and Lee met at a doughnut shop where she worked in southeastern Arizona, Shannon said. Her father would help Lee make morning deliveries, and the two started dating sometime after 2007.
The couple later drove a semitrailer across the country for work, but once they started having kids, the truck got cramped, and the family moved to Montana, Shannon said.
“Arie made my dad happy, and I know he made her happy — at least some of the time,” she said, adding that she and Lee had become friends.
Bournes worked odd jobs to support the couple’s three children, 5-year-old Augustine, 4-year-old Woodrow and 1-year-old Arie.
He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, but he also carried an anti-government streak that his ex-wife said stemmed from a run-in with the law 20 years ago.
Bournes had used a bulldozer to block in someone who had been driving across his New Mexico property, and he was charged with false imprisonment and aggravated assault, Schuppan said.
He was acquitted, but “the incident on the mountain really turned him sour against the government,” Schuppan said. “He felt like things were unfair.”
His daughter said his negative feelings lingered. “He fought for freedom and took it very seriously, Shannon said. “But he was not happy with how the world is today.”