Investigators conclude Hubbard father killed self, family in January
The Marion County District Attorney's Office has determined that the January deaths of a Hubbard family were caused by the father, Keith Kroeker, 42. A seven-month investigation has revealed that Keith Kroeker killed his wife, Erin Kroeker, 39, and three young children before killing himself. It was determined that Kroeker set the property ablaze at some point during the homicides.
The conclusion of the case was announced in a press release by the Marion County District Attorney the afternoon of Aug. 11.
According to the autopsy and investigation results, Keith Kroeker killed his two sons, Braedon and Luke, both 10, with shotgun wounds to the head. His daughter, Leia, 7, died from strangulation and a shotgun wound to the head. Erin Kroeker died from blunt force head trauma. Keith Kroeker was found dead, and his cause of death was determined to be a suicide from a shotgun wound to the head.
Days after authorities first responded to the fire on the Kroeker's property, it was announced that investigators found remains of five people matched the description of the Kroekers. At that time, the remains were confirmed to be of one adult male, one adult female and three children, and that the medical examiner determined that the adult male and three children died of a single gunshot wounds and the adult female died of blunt force trauma to the head.
Investigators also announced in January that they were focusing on a murder/suicide explanation of the case. However, it was not announced until now that the investigation determined Keith Kroeker to be the sole perpetrator.
Deputy District Attorney Brendan Murphy declined to give information about the investigation additional to what was provided in the press release. Since the case constitutes child abuse, records of the investigation are not public record, according to the DA's office.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office conducted the investigation and submitted the findings to the Marion County District Attorney's Office for review, according to the press release from the DA's office.
At around 3 a.m. on Jan. 3, the Marion County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of a barn and house fire located outside the city limits of Hubbard. Upon arriving at the scene, deputies saw that the entire north end of the residence as well as a detached barn located on the northwest corner of the property were both completely engulfed by fire.
The Woodburn Fire District and numerous other fire agencies were already on scene trying to extinguish the fires. The Kroeker family's Honda Odyssey van was parked in the residence's attached garage and the house's front door was locked. While walking the property deputies discovered cut up pieces of hose between the barn and the residence.
Additionally, a third building on the property — a detached garage — had smoke and fire damage but was not actively burning. Upon entry, deputies found a Ford Mustang parked inside. The Mustang's gas cover was open and a fire had been started directly beneath the open gas cap, which caused the gas cap and the blinds in the garage to melt. Beyond that damage, however, that fire did not spread. Investigators could smell an odor of a flammable liquid, such as gasoline or ethanol when they entered the building.
Due to the three separate ignition points each in a separate building on the property, the cut hose sections, and odors consistent with flammable liquid, investigators determined that the fire was intentionally set.
At approximately 4:36 a.m., the Woodburn Fire District advised that they located a body inside the residence. They told deputies that the top floor of the residence was completely burned and that part of the main floor had fallen into the daylight basement of the residence. Firefighters also informed deputies that there was an additional car parked in the basement, which added to the intensity of the fire. The investigation ultimately showed that the car had been purposefully driven through a set of double doors into the Kroeker family's daylight basement.
The fires burned for the next several hours as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze. Suppression efforts were complicated due to downed electrical wires, unstable structures and severe cold weather. During the suppression efforts, Marion County Sheriff's Office detectives obtained search warrants for the residence, buildings, and vehicles on the property. On Jan. 4, 2017, once the structures were determined to be safe, investigators entered the residence and buildings and began sifting through severely burned debris in order to collect any and all available evidence.
Four bodies were recovered from the residence on Jan. 4, 2017. Those were the bodies of 10-year-old twins Luke and Braedon Kroeker, 7-year-old Leia Kroeker and Keith Kroeker. The locations of the bodies of all three children were consistent with being killed in their respective bedrooms. Keith Kroeker's body was found at the top of the stairs.
The body of mother Erin Kroeker was discovered on Jan. 5, 2017. The location of Erin Kroeker's body was consistent with being killed in her bedroom. Additionally, on Jan. 5, 2017, Marion County Sheriff's Office K-9 division and Mountain Wave K-9 division, a search and rescue organization out of Portland, conducted a search of the premises and did not find any additional bodies or remains.
In the following days, investigators worked long hours continuing their search of the residence. They found a Mossberg Maverick 12-gauge, slide-action shotgun located at the bottom of the stairs. The shotgun was found with the barrel pointing toward the top of the stairs, where Keith Kroeker's body was found. The shotgun held an expended but melted shotgun shell.
On Jan. 5, 2017, the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office conducted autopsies on all five members of the Kroeker family. All bodies were severely burned by the fire.
It was determined that both Luke and Braedon Kroeker died from shotgun wounds of the head.
Leia Kroeker's autopsy revealed her cause of death to be homicidal violence including strangulation and shotgun wound of the head.
None of the children's autopsies showed signs of smoke inhalation. All of them were wearing bed clothes when they were recovered from the scene.
All of the children's deaths were concluded to be homicides.
Erin Kroeker's autopsy showed the cause of her death was blunt force head trauma, and her death was determined to be a homicide. The autopsy and blood results showed signs of smoke inhalation prior to her death. When her body was recovered, she was dressed in bed clothes.
Keith Kroeker's cause of death was determined to be a shotgun wound of the brain and the manner of death was suicide. The autopsy and blood results showed signs of smoke inhalation prior to his death. When Keith Kroeker's body was recovered, he was dressed in blue jeans, a belt, a thermal shirt, and work boots.
Over the subsequent months, Detectives continued to investigate the incident. They obtained and served multiple search warrants and subpoenas, interviewed numerous friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors.
Detectives were also able to track Keith Kroeker's and Erin Kroeker's cell phones and follow up on the tips and information provided by the community.
After reviewing that entire seven-month investigation, the Marion County District Attorney's Office has concluded that Keith Kroeker is solely responsible for the deaths of Erin Kroeker and their three children.
The children attended Woodburn's Lincoln Elementary School and the family was active at the Mid Valley Community Church.
Pastor Jesse Hamberger said in January that Keith Kroeker was an elder in the church, and they had been planning a trip to their mission in Nicaragua.
Erin Kroeker was also active in the church, serving as a pianist to the children's choir. The children also attended Sunday school.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office was assisted by the Woodburn Fire District, Oregon State Police, Oregon State Police Crime Lab, Oregon State Medical Examiner, Oregon State Fire Marshal, and the Marion County District Attorney's Office in the investigation. The investigation is now closed.
No grand jury will be convened nor any charges filed as the potential defendant is deceased.