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Springville • In the Springville home where Benjamin and Kristi Strack and three of their children were found dead on Sept. 27, no note was found to explain the murder-suicide.
In a notebook, a "to-do list" had been scribbled on the pages, Springville police revealed at a press conference Tuesday. The list looked as if the parents were readying to go on vacation items such as "feed the pets" and "find someone to watch after the house" were written.
But there was no clear explanation for why on that September day, the five family members ingested a fatal mixture of drugs.
In the weeks and months after the family's deaths, Police Chief J. Scott Finlayson said investigators talked with their family and friends, who told them that Benjamin and Kristi Strack spoke frequently of "leaving this world." Friends said the couple believed there was a looming apocalypse and that they desired to escape from the evil in the world.
"This apocalyptic thing became fairly common," Lt. David Caron said. "Most of the people ... thought their intention was to move to Montana and live out in the forest off the grid."
Police, however, found that the parents were planning something more sinister.
Autopsies revealed that Benjamin Strack had toxic levels of heroin in his system. A medical examiner ruled his death a suicide.
Kristi Strack's death also was deemed a suicide. She had methadone, dextrorphan, diphenhydramine and doxylamine in her system.
The three Strack children Benson, 14, Emery, 12 and Zion, 11 died from toxic levels of diphenhydramine and methadone.
A medical examiner ruled that the manner of death for the two youngest children was homicide. But Benson Strack's manner of death "could not be determined."
"Because of his age, it is difficult to determine if he was capable to make a decision to commit suicide or to consent to join with his parents in committing suicide," a Springville police press release reads. "... The other two children were obviously too young to consent to any sort of agreement to commit suicide."
Only one item in the home contained any controlled substances, police said Tuesday: a plastic children's sand pail had a yellow/orange liquid that contained cherry-flavored methadone, dextromethorphan, diphenhydramine, acetaminophen, caffeine, doxylamine and ibuprofen.
How the liquid was consumed by the children is still a mystery, Finlayson said.
On the evening of Sept. 27, Janson McGee, the Stracks' now-19-year-old son, returned to his home after being out, according to police. When he could not open the door to the master bedroom, he called his grandmother, Valerie Sudweeks, who forced the door open to reveal the family's motionless bodies.
A friend of Sudweeks called 911, Finlayson said.
"Oh my God!" the unidentified woman tells dispatchers. "The family killed themselves!"
Benson and Emery were found lying on mattresses on the floor of the master bedroom, according to police. Zion and Kristi Strack were under the bed covers on the master bed, while Benjamin Strack lay between them on top of the covers, with one arm and one leg draped over his wife.
"This would indicate that he was likely the last in the family to succumb to the toxic levels of drugs in his system," the press release states.
Officers found in a trash bag a number of empty containers for medications, including 10 empty boxes of nighttime cold and flu medicine and two empty boxes of "generic benadryl." Police also found empty bottles of liquid methadone that had been prescribed to Kristi Strack.
Police also found pill bottles, a pitcher of red juice, the purple bucket of orange/yellow liquid, a towel with a red substance on it, empty sleep aid boxes and a baggie of marijuana.
Though the parents left no suicide note, police noted that Benson had penned a letter to a close friend that "indicated that Benson was aware that he may die" and was bequeathing his personal items to the friend.
Family spokesman Bob McGee said in November that the letter was written two days before the family's death.
"In that letter, it was clear he was expecting something to happen," said McGee, who is the uncle of the Strack's lone surviving son.
Finlayson said that officers who talked with Janson McGee on Tuesday reported that he is "doing well from what we can tell." The chief said investigators don't believe the oldest son knew about the murder-suicide plan.
Bob McGee has said that family members believe mental illness was a factor in the Stracks' deaths.
He said his family hopes the tragedy can help bring awareness to mental health issues and start a dialogue within families. Family members often miss the warning signs of mental illness, he said, writing off someone's behavior as just being "quirky."
"Nobody in the family was a mental health professional," McGee said. "Nobody was trained or informed for what to look for."