Filed under: multiple murder

A Black Widow’s Trail?

(A mild health issue has slowed my writing for a couple of days. The following really couldn’t wait, in part because I’m sure some readers will find this unfolding story just as fascinating as I do. I decided to be careful with this post because it touches on a long-term, ongoing investigation that stretches from Missouri to Utah. Only a few names are real, the rest are pseudonyms and marked with asterisks [*]. At the moment, I only have public records and a source close to one family involved in this story to go on for background info, so some details are sketchy, but that will change. To my knowledge, no arrest has been made in this case.)

Eugenia Howell* married Dennis Spriggs in 1967. A photo made 5 years after the couple tied the knot showed a slender woman with a pleasant face, long straight nose, engaging smile. By 1972 the pair had two children, and Eugenia Spriggs was occasionally working as a subsitute teacher. When she wasn’t taking care of her kids or substituting, she was involved with the Rho Delta Chapter of ESA International, a leadership and service organization for women. In November, 1972, Mrs. Spriggs received the organization’s highest honor, the First Pearl Award. A local paper said the award was given for “educational and philanthropic accomplishments.”

Dennis Spriggs passed away 20 years after his wife received the First Pearl Award. He was 47. There was no autopsy. Spriggs was buried with little fanfare in the Highland Park Cemetery in Kirksville, Missouri.

Eugenia moved on to Ottumwa, Iowa. She married Ray Don Ford*, became a member of the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce. It only lasted a few years — a petition for the dissolution of the marriage was filed by either Mr. Ford or his counsel on August 27, 1998.

Then something happened to Ray Ford. Just 3 weeks after he filed for divorce from the former Mrs. Spriggs, a new petition was filed. The court records regarding the “Guardianship of Ray Don Ford” indicate the guardianship was “involuntary.” A new petition was made on December 2, 1998. This motion was to appoint a “guardian and conservator” for Mr. Ford. At 59, Ray Ford apparently could no longer care for himself.

Eugenia Spriggs Ford moved West, to Utah. In June, 1999, Utah’s business journal, The Enterprise, reported that she had been appointed executive director of the Murray, UT Chamber of Commerce. The Fords’ divorce was final on September 9, 1999.

That same year, Mrs. Spriggs Ford married Brice Fulton*, a fifty-something father of 6 (by a previous marriage) and an Industrial Engineer who worked for UPS.

In 2003, Brice Fulton’s heart nearly gave out. After a cardiac arrest Fulton received a Left Ventricular Assist Device. He lived 3.5 more years, and died on January 4, 2007.

Just over one year later, police were in the Highland Park Cemetery in Kirksville, Missouri. They were there to dig up the remains of Dennis Spriggs. The following quote is from an article published February 27, 2008 on ABC4.com, the website for Salt Lake City’s ABC affiliate:

The FBI may be on the trail of a serial killer with Utah ties. ABC 4 News has learned agents have ordered at least three bodies exhumed as part of their investigation.

One body was buried in the Highland Park Cemetery in Kirksville, Missouri. 47-year old Dennis Spriggs died back in 1992. It was an apparently unremarkable death. The local newspaper made no mention of it. But now investigators have reason to believe he may have been murdered, so the Adair County Coroner, Brian Noe, dug up the body and took it to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy…

Coroner Noe went on to say he had questions about Spriggs’s death that needed answers. He wanted to determine “an exact cause of death.”

On February 28, 2008, Kansas City, MO TV station KMBC published a similar article on their website about the Spriggs exhumation. From that piece:

The FBI in Salt Lake City confirmed that similar procedures have been performed on two bodies in Utah and that their offices in both states are working together. The FBI said the investigation has been going on for months but is expected to wrap up very soon…

Eugenia Spriggs left behind her widowhood and traveled to Iowa in the early 1990s, where she became Mrs. Ford. A few years later, something happened to Mr. Ford that left him incapable of caring for his own affairs — just as he was in the process of divorcing Eugenia.

Mrs. Spriggs Ford ended up in Utah, married to Brice Fulton. He nearly died in 2003, but lasted another 3-plus years, passing away “quietly” at his home, according to his obit.

One woman, moving across the years from Missouri to Utah, leaving either dead or infirm men along the way.

She is said to be charming, attractive, intelligent. She’s always found her way into socially prominent situations. Eugenia was a leader in the Rho Delta Chapter of ESA in the late 60s and early 70s, and some online records still listed her as executive director of the Murray CoC, though she could not be found on the Chambers’ website.

When Dennis Spriggs’s body was autopsied in late February, it was reported that tests on his remains may take a few weeks to come back.

Is the pseudonymous Eugenia Spriggs Ford Fulton a “serial killer,” or simply one of the unluckier people you’ve ever heard of? Those tests may give us an idea.

*= Pseudonym

Deathmaker

It wasn’t a typical start to the day for residents living near the 3200 block of Sherman Court in suburban Nampa, Idaho.

A naked man was walking through the neighborhood on a Wednesday morning. This would have been unusual on any day just about any place, but it was especially strange here considering the likely temperature on a typical January morning anywhere in Idaho.

The 26-year-old man’s name was Brent Eugene High.

Naturally somebody called the cops. The police stopped Mr. High, and after some questioning it became clear there was a crime scene somewhere close by.

According to Nampa assistant police chief Leroy Forsman, that crime scene was “gruesome.”

Nampa, Idaho, population just over 100,000, had its first homicide investigation of 2007, and it was a twofer. Found bludgeoned to death in the 3200 block of Sherman Court were two males — men whose names have not been released as of midnight, January 25, 2006.

Brent Eugene High was arrested. He sits tonight in the Canyon County Jail, charged with two counts of first-degree murder. 1, 2.

It is not yet an axiom that a name in the news, a name like Brent High’s, will lead a websleuth to a profile on MySpace. Some names are too common, and plenty of people still do not live their lives online.

In this instance, a search of that domain for the name “Brent High” yielded just a handful of results, and only one was 26 and from anywhere in Idaho:

http://www.myspace.com/130034989
.

The MySpacer listed his astrological sign as Gemini. That information dovetailed with the birthdate for the only Idaho-based Brent E. High, age 26, that I could find in public record database searches on the name.

The person who made the profile, (last log-in on November 17, 2006), well — he was pretty kooky, and he loved Everquest. Everquest is a popular “massively multiplayer online role-playing game” (MMORPG) that’s been steadily drawing new users since 1999.

This Brent High said he was from Idaho Falls, Idaho, which is nearly 300 miles away from Nampa. The database searches I ran gave an address for Brent High in Idaho Falls at one point, then in Boise, which is only 22 miles from Nampa.

Under “About Me,” he wrote:

FU guys, lol J/k but really if you got a problem with my site then STFU Muwahahahahahahah hehe TEEHEE TeeHEHEHE…

Then, under “Who I’d like to meet,” Brent High posted:

That on EverQuest that Trained me that one day back in 2001. Ya i got a Screen shot of that , no not really im not a dick like some of you all. But im a asshole heheh…

For his headline, the quote by the profile pic on all MySpace profiles, Brent High wrote:

EQ Saryrn Brentos DeathMaker’s Myspace Bitches !!!

Working with the assumption that a man found naked near the scene of a gruesome double murder might be a bit odd in general, like the creator of this MySpace page, I felt this profile held information worth searching. Specifically, the name “Brentos Deathmaker.”

It’s a clever, if morbid play on the slogan for Mentos — “the freshmaker.” Clever enough to be pretty unique.

Brentos Deathmaker had an Everquest profile, of course. It showed his total time played was 403 days and some change. He’d last updated the profile on January 18, and was last online using that profile on the 19th.

Removing the space between the first and last name — BrentosDeathmaker — yielded a number of results. On xfire, for instance, the Deathmaker had logged 130 hours playing Battlefield 2.

I didn’t find any of this remarkable in the way you might think. That the man played online games was immaterial to me. If I was looking at profiles for the same Brent High sitting in the Canyon County Jail charged with a gruesome double murder, I did wonder why he had so much time to play the games.

Then I took a close look at the BrentosDeathmaker user profile for a game titled, “End of Evolution”:

Age:
26
Location:
Idaho,USA
Interests:
Everquest,BF2
Occupation:
Disabled SSI , Playing Games is my job !

I couldn’t help but think that the disability would turn out to be a mental illness. My guess would be paranoid schizophrenia.

Sometime in the last few months, Brent High the gamer on social security disability had a huge life change.

Posting to a forum at TheSteelWarrior.org, he gave a breakdown of what was going on, and why he was leaving Everquest. The point to the post (Yahoo’s cache — to read the original required a login for the site) was to sell his Brentos Deathmaker character:

Broke up with lillyanna after 12 year relationship now im 26 yrs old. Living with Heffe…hauled all that my exe didn’t take to the dump , with the clothing on my back and what little I owned Ie a cmputer left…..and now have a property manager handling my home in that city….to make a long story short. Now that im in the Same Metro area as my RL brother , and friends i’m looking to sell Brentos account and be done with EQ. played it for years and no reason to talk to lillyanna at all we have no kids and the break was rather clean she wants to use illegal drugs and thats fine she can OD for all I care..but after 7 years im honeslty rdy to just be done with EQ……turning now to god and Jesus away from sin and wicked people ie drug abusers , I feel bad for her but what can I do she isn’t my wife so I have no legal hold on her she wouldn’t take me for husband doesn’t want to bring life into the world I would at least like the possiblity to have a son or
daughter I would love either that god sent me. Well we all got to do what we got to do. so maybe in time god will bless me untill then may god bless my exe and help her see and get off the drugs as I can’t help and at that time myself good bye i’ve moved on …..there alot of great peeps in EQ and what not brentos is a decently geared tank with max AA atm i’ll continue to play him untill I fine someone who is willing to buy him off my hands. Looking for happiness in all the right places I suppose so im optomoistic. Asking 1800.00 for Brentos guildy or not this is RL business looking to use that along with what i’ll get from renting my home ect….. to buy a Steet bike to get around town with… if your self or anyone you know wants to investe into this Warrior let me know

well Email me Brentostankfly@hotmail.com
IM me also via this email
or call me on the phone XXX-XXX-XXXX
if your seriously interested in Brentos we’lll work out the details I look forward to hearing from you…

The Deathmaker posted a shorter message here, at RealPoor.com, a site that has forums where gamers can trade, buy, and sell characters.

Brent High, or “Brentos Deathmaker” was a still-young man on disability, who even joked that gaming was his “career.” Yet here he was, trying to sell the character he’d used to represent himself online for so long.

Incidentally, he mentioned moving to a “metro” area. In Idaho, that typically means Boise/Nampa. So Brent High/BrentosDeathmaker may have been in Boise by the beginning of this month.

“Brentos Deathmaker” posted the RealPoor.com message on January 15, 2007. The upheaval described in the longer message on the SteelWarrior site was recent.

I believe Brent High spent several years forging a life in the fantasy worlds of Everquest and World of Warcraft. It was his way to pass the day when he had nowhere else to go, since he was on disability. In this instance, it may be that the games actually provided him with a sort of stability.

With the severing of a relationship, Brent’s brittle fantasy world began to shatter.

And it just may be that in one night, Brentos’s self-created name — Deathmaker — went from a morbid joke to a horrific reality.

Any updates will be posted below.

UPDATE, 12:45 p.m. ET

The Idaho Statesman has a good article about this double-homicide here. They have yet to pick up on this angle of the story — how Brent High’s online presence may have given some insight into what was going on with him, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t happen onto this info eventually.

The names of the murder victims have not been released as of noon today.

UPDATE, 4:41 p.m. ET

The details of the murders Brent High is accused of committing are not fully known, but what the Idaho Press-Tribune publishes in an update is pretty awful:

Magistrate Judge George Soughworth said Thursday that suspect Brent High is accused of torturing two men in Nampa Wednesday and then killing them by striking them with a “sharp, heavy object in the face and or body.”

Soughworth said in a video arraignment that the murderer of two men committed the crime “to fulfill some sadistic desire.”

The bodies of Brandon Johnson and an unidentified man were found in the 3200 block of Sherman Court on Wednesday…

This story is even more chilling than it seemed.

A Ladawn Johnson lives at 3220 Sherman Court in Nampa, so it is likely this was the address where the double homicide occurred.

UPDATE, 5:16 p.m. ET

Brandon Johnson may have been Brent High’s stepbrother. Again, from the Press-Tribune, another update:

Coroner Vicki DeGeus-Morris said officials are “99 percent sure” the victim is Brandon Johnson, stepbrother of suspect Brent High, but there are “still things we need to do” to confirm that he was indeed the victim.

De-Geus Morris said she is also “99 percent sure” about the identity of the second victim but is not releasing the victim’s last name until his identity is confirmed and his parents are notified. DeGeus Morris did say the second victim’s first name may be Randy…

This news renders the posts made by Brentos Deathmaker about his move to the same metro area as his brother more ominous than they seemed before.

It is also apparent that law enforcement doesn’t believe the man they have in custody is insane, but more likely a stone-cold psychopathic killer. I base this on the “sadistic desire” statement from the previous update.

Further updates to follow.

UPDATE, 1/26/07

The Idaho Statesman has an article detailing just how insane and awful the murders of Brandon Johnson and “RB” may have been:

No suspected motive for the killings was revealed in the affidavit, and Nampa police have not disclosed a motive or other details. High seemed lucid during the hearing and answered the judge respectfully. Family members at the hearing appeared distraught; one woman cried softly. They declined to comment as they left the courtroom.

According to the affidavit:

• Both victims were found in pools of blood — BJ on a bed in the master bedroom, RB face-down in the kitchen. Blood spatter and other evidence indicate RB “had been followed and struck throughout the home.”

• A single-blade ax was found in the toilet, blade down. Blood and hair were found on the ax head and blood on the handle.

• Bloody footprints led from RB’s body to a bathroom, where police found blood-soaked jeans, other clothing, shoes that matched the footprints, and High’s wallet.

• Blood was smeared on closet doors and spread on the floors, ceilings and walls in the hallway, entryway and living room.

• High’s hair was wet when officers stopped him, as if he’d taken a shower. Cowdery said he examined High and saw flecks of red on his ear that seemed consistent with blood spatter. High’s left hand, particularly around his knuckles, was yellowish and dark.

BJ’s wife told investigators that High had been living with the couple at the home on Sherman Court for about a month. She said her husband and RB were asleep when she left the house about 6:16 a.m. Wednesday, but High was awake.

Officers responding to a report of a naked man found High several blocks from the home around 9 a.m. When officers interviewed High, he continually made comments about the Bible, religion, God and Jesus Christ, they said in the affidavit…

Religious delusions, walking naked through the cold… this man was sick. It just remains to be seen as to whether or not he was too sick to know that what he did was wrong. It will be the difference between life in prison or the death penalty or life in a psychiatric hospital.

Sources (other than original research):

1. “Naked man arrested for double Murder,” Fox Channel 12, KTRV, Boise/Nampa/Caldwell.

2. Wikipedia entry on Nampa, Idaho.

A Fire in Fishkill (Developing Story out of New York)…

The fire was reported just after 3 in the morning. Someone passing 203 Route 82 in Fishkill, New York spotted flames leaping from the 21/2-story dwelling and phoned emergency services.

Authorities determined that the fire was the result of arson. The dead people inside the house had not simply succumbed to the smoke or the heat, either — they’d been murdered.

At the moment, it appears that the toll in this dawning nightmare is three kids, two adults.

New York State Police have not identified any suspects and they are not releasing the names of the people found in the home.

In press conference held close to the burned-out home, Major William Carey, State Police Troop K, said that a vehicle fire had been reported about 20 minutes after the fire at 203 Route 82. Carey told reporters that the car fire “appeared to be related.” 1.

Someone posting a comment on the article that provided the info for this blog entry wrote the following about the house on Route 82:

This house on Route 82 caught my attention yesterday as I drove past about 2:45 pm. I thought the place looked neglected and their was garbage scattered all over the yard. This was not the way this house usually looked. This is such a terrible thing, and now they are saying it was a homicide…

I will update this blog entry as more news becomes available. Anytime 5 people die at once under such mysterious circumstances, it’s news worth following — especially if you live in the neighborhood. Obviously I don’t… and at the moment, I’m glad.

UPDATE, 9:32 p.m. ET

From the Hudson Valley News, the names of the victims:

Police Friday evening identified the five people killed in a house that was torched in the Town of Fishkill that morning as a mother, father and their three sons.

The Dutchess County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled the deaths as homicide.

Dead are Manual Morey, 33, Tina Morey, 30, and their children, Manuel Morey, 13, Adam Morey, 10, and six-year-old Ryan Morey…

Other articles indicated that the 10-year-old boy had been stabbed to death, the youngest boy, Ryan, was bludgeoned.

A family vehicle was found torched on Lomala Lane, about a mile-and-a-half from the home on Route 82.

This horrific story is still developing…

1.Police: ‘Multiple homicides’ at site of Fishkill fire,” The Poughkeepsie Journal, January 19, 2007.