SPRINGVILLE — Relatives of five members of a Springville family found dead in their home say newly unsealed search warrants pointing to possible poisoning — possibly mixed in with drinks — as the cause of the deaths "begins to confirm our suspicions."
"The search warrant released (Wednesday) was shocking to our family, and unfortunately it begins to confirm our suspicions. We are upset about this new information and are struggling as we are forced to relive this horrible tragedy," relatives of Benjamin and Kristi Strack wrote in a joint, prepared statement.
The family also said it would be releasing an extended statement through a national periodical, as well as the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
On Wednesday, a man named Jake Strack posted a message on the Strack family's memorial Facebook page offering an exclusive interview for media willing to donate to the family's GoFundMe account. On Thursday, however, the family said they were not receiving any compensation or contribution for talking to a national publication first.
When asked why an extended statement would be released through NAMI and whether that is an indication that someone in the Strack family suffered from a mental illness, family spokesman Bob McGee would only say, "You can draw your own conclusions."
Utah NAMI Executive Director Jamie Justice said she could not speculate as to whether Ben or Kristi Strack had a mental illness as she never met them or talked to them.
The family, however, reached out to NAMI apparently in an attempt to understand what happened to their loved ones and why. Justice said her office is able to provide support to the family.
Justice also noted — without speaking specifically to the Strack case — that untreated mental illness can sometimes lead to suicide. Treatment and recovery from mental illness are possible, she said.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 800-273-8255, operates 24 hours a day.
Also on Thursday, Springville police said they will not be releasing any additional information on the deaths of the Benjamin and Kristi Strack family until the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office completes the autopsies on all five family members — including toxicology results — which are predicted to be done by the end of November.
"The release of documents by the court has reignited interest in the death investigation of members of the Strack family," Springville Police Lt. Dave Caron wrote in a prepared statement. "The various affidavits written so that officers could fully investigate this tragic event seem to have raised additional questions as to the events that occurred that night.
"To comment or speculate on the cause or manner of death prior to the results of those autopsies would be unprofessional. And minus those reports, we have no updates to give on the case or the investigation itself," Caron said.
According to three search warrant affidavits served at the end of September through the first week of October, the Stracks and three of their children — Benson, 14, Emery, 12, and Zion, 11 — were discovered dead behind the locked door of the parents' master bedroom on Sept. 27. All had cups filled with red liquid near them, according to the affidavits.
The bodies of Ben and Kristi Strack were on their bed. The bodies of the children were around the bed, "covered in bedding up to their necks," according to one warrant.
"With the placement of the bodies, it would appear somebody had to position the bodies after they were deceased," Springville detective Jeffery Ellsworth wrote in the warrant.
In one affidavit served Oct. 9, Springville police detective Greg Turnbow wrote that he was collecting evidence to investigate the crime of "homicide."
"It is probable that these death's were not accidental or natural in anyway," Ellsworth wrote.
Inside the house, detectives found empty bottles of liquid methadone. Some of the bottles had future dates on them.
In a trash bag collected from a garbage can outside the house, detectives found 10 opened and empty boxes of a nighttime cold and flu medication and nine empty blister packs for cold and flu medication, according to the warrants. The bag also contained two empty boxes for allergy relief medication.
A towel with a red substance on it and a pitcher of red juice were also collected by police.
Family members told investigators that it was unusual for all five family members to be in the master bedroom together. On the day the bodies were discovered, Kristi Strack's mother, who was one of the family members who found them, said she "knew her family" and knew there hadn't been a carbon monoxide leak.
"Valerie (Sudweeks) also said she couldn't believe 'she' would do this to the kids," the affidavit states. "Officers tried to clarify (her) statement, but she only assured them it wasn't a carbon monoxide leak."
No carbon monoxide was detected in the home at 954 E. 900 South.
Notebooks, cellphones, iPods and laptops were all collected and sent to the Utah State Crime Lab for analysis as detectives continued to look for information pointing to a possible motive.
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