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Police: Deaths of Utah family of 5 not accidental

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SPRINGVILLE — Investigators believe a family of five in Springville died last month of poisoning.

Police suspected the family's deaths were "not accidental or natural in any way" from the day they were found in their Springville home, 954 E. 900 South, according newly-released search warrants filed in 4th District Court as part of a homicide investigation.

Benjamin Strack, 37, his wife Kristi Strack, 36, 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. At the time, Springville police told the media they had no answers as to how the family died, saying there was no signs of carbon monoxide in the home, no trauma suffered and no obvious signs.

What they didn't say then is that detectives immediately suspected the family ingested poison and that at least one family member seemed to have suspected what happened.

"The detectives on scene determined the cause to be an accidental or intentional poisoning either by ingestion or environmental causes," detective Raymond Flores wrote in an affidavit.

The parents' bodies were found in the bed, while the three children were lying "around the bed," covered up to their necks with bedding, according to the affidavits. All five had cups of red liquid near their bodies.

"Furthermore, with the placement of the bodies, it would appear somebody had to position the bodies after they were deceased," detective Jeffery Ellsworth wrote. Family members told investigators the children had their own bedrooms and it was unusual for all of them to be together in their parents' bedroom.

A trash bag at the home was found with 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.

Police also removed a bag of marijuana, cellphones, a laptop, wallets, a towel with a red substance on it, a pitcher of red juice, pill bottles and medications from the Strack house. Empty bottles of liquid Methadone were also found.

The family was found by Kristi Strack's 18-year-old son, Janson McGee, and his girlfriend, who had contacted Kristi Strack's mother, Valerie Sudweeks, and her friend, to help them enter the locked bedroom.

According to the warrants, McGee's girlfriend, who also lived at the home, spoke with Kristi Strack at 6 a.m. that Saturday, and then went back to bed. McGee and his girlfriend woke up around noon and, finding the house quiet, went to a friend's home believing the family had left.

When they returned about 7 p.m., they found the home quiet although all the family cars were still at the house. Knocks and calls to the master bedroom door went unanswered.

When firefighters arrived, they warned Sudweeks there may be a carbon monoxide leak in the home.

"Valerie replied, stating there was no carbon monoxide leak, and that she knew her family. Valerie also said she couldn't believe 'she' would do this to the kids," one of the affidavits states. "Officers tried to clarify Valerie's statement, but she only assured them it wasn't a carbon monoxide leak."

Officers had to physically remove the mother and grandmother because of her emotional state.

Neither Springville police nor family members responded to calls for comment Wednesday. However, 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 Go Fund Me account. Professional journalism ethics preclude reporters from paying for interviews.

At a vigil prior to the family's funeral earlier this month, friends and neighbors recalled the easy, sincere friendships they shared with the Stracks, whom they described as loving and kind.

Isaac Strack, Benjamin's older brother, asked the crowd at the event to be patient as they waited for answers surrounding the deaths. Toxicology tests have yet to be completed.

"We understand that there is healing that comes with those answers," Isaac Strack said at the time. "We're confident those answers will come. … We all have to be patient and wait until those answers come, and even when they do come, we won't know everything."

Contributing: Devon Dolan


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