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Police confirm murder-suicide in death of 5 in Duluth

According to police, Brandon Taylor Cole-Skogstad shot four family members, a dog, and then himself.

Details emerge about a murder suicide leaving five people and the family dog dead in the East Hillside neighborhood of Duluth.
Duluth police chief Mike Tusken reads the names of the victims of a murder-suicide during a press conference on Thursday, April 21, 2022 at the Public Safety Building in Duluth. Five people were found deceased in the East Hillside neighborhood of Duluth on Wednesday afternoon.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Police confirmed Thursday that 29-year-old Brandon Taylor Cole-Skogstad shot dead four relatives, a dog and then himself on Wednesday in the East Hillside neighborhood of Duluth.

According to a press release from the Duluth Police Department on Thursday, the victims are Sadie Lucille Barry, 9; Shiway Elizabeth Barry, 12; Riana Lou Barry, 44; and Sean Christopher Barry, 47, all of Duluth. The two children attended Duluth Public Schools.

Cole-Skogstad was the nephew of Sean and Riana Barry. Police believe he was previously living with the family.

"In 32 years, we haven't seen anything like this, where we've had four victims of a homicide," Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Shortly after noon Wednesday, Duluth police responded to the report of an individual, Cole-Skogstad, experiencing a mental health crisis. The call originated just after 11:18 a.m. in Hermantown as a welfare check.

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Cole-Skogstad had posted on Facebook that “I have made the absolutely horrid choice,” before outlining the unspeakable scene confronted by authorities Wednesday.

Hermantown police were dispatched to the 4100 block of Timber Lane Drive to check on Cole-Skogstad, but they were unable to locate or contact him.

Duluth police, who received information that Cole-Skogstad had access to a weapon, approached the house at 715 E. 12th St. in East Hillside at 12:29 p.m. As they knocked on the door, officers heard what they believed to be a gunshot. Police retreated and requested mutual aid from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office and Superior Police Department.

Five deceased people and a deceased dog found in East Hillside home in Duluth.
A member of the Duluth Police Department talks on the phone on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, after the discovery of five deceased people and a deceased dog were found in the city's East Hillside neighborhood.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Shortly after 3 p.m., the Duluth Police Department Tactical Team searched the house after using robots and drones to assess the home, and located five bodies and the family dog, all dead, the release said.

After a preliminary investigation, police determined that Cole-Skogstad shot the victims while they were sleeping. A 9-millimeter handgun was found close to Cole-Skogstad. Duluth and Hermantown police searched 911 history and did not find any previous calls showing a pattern of behavior regarding Cole-Skogstad.

"I've got to tell you, it's tough on all of us," Tusken said as he choked up at Thursday’s press conference. "It's tough on our cops. Our police officers, a lot of them may have families. Any time you go into a situation like this and you see that tragedy, it is terribly heart-wrenching. And you can't unsee it."

Five deceased people and a deceased dog found in East Hillside home in Duluth.
A Duluth Police Department Crime Scene Investigation Unit vehicle outside a house Wednesday, April 20, 2022, where five deceased people and a deceased dog were found.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Duluth City Council President Arik Forsman also spoke Thursday, stating the event has been heart-shattering for the entire community and praised the Duluth Police Department's available trauma response resources for responding officers.

"Things like this happen far too often in our country, and as leaders at the local, state and federal levels, we just have to pause and reflect when things like this happen to see what else could be done, either in prevention, or as far as gun violence goes, to make our community safer,” Forsman said.

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Tusken said there were no calls to report gunshots throughout the night, and all four Barry family members appeared to have been asleep at their time of death.

"These are really difficult investigations, and sometimes it is very hard to peel back those layers to find out (a motive)," Tusken said. "Right now, it would be entirely speculative for me to say what that motive is."

A GoFundMe page was started by family and friends of the Barry family to raise funds for funeral services, burial, memorials and family lodging and travel to Duluth.

"They were a truly special family who impacted the lives of so many of those around them," the organizers wrote on the fundraising website, which has a goal to raise $50,000. "They leave behind their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and many many friends. Family are not prepared for this horrible tragedy."

Duluth Public Schools Superintendent John Magas said the two children were former elementary students in the district, and grief resources will be available beginning Monday.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, who is out of town for a conference, released the following statement about the incident:

“On every level, this incident is deeply painful for our community. Especially impacted are the neighbors of East Hillside and first responders. Thank you to neighbors for taking good care of one another and for knowing the beautiful parts of the Barry family. Thank you to DPD for answering the call of public safety. I’m sorry for what you experienced, which is deeply traumatic.

"As a parent and member of a family, it is wrenching to consider what the Barry family might be feeling. There is only loss to every part of this story. To the Barry family: Our community mourns with you and we share in your pain. Because your loss is our community’s loss."

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The investigation is ongoing.

Editor's note: If you or a loved one is in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK).

Brady Slater covers St. Louis County and transportation for the Duluth News Tribune. He's a veteran journalist, and a University of Pittsburgh graduate who was born and raised in the Northland. He can be reached by emailing bslater@duluthnews.com or by calling or texting 218-721-2724.
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