Update: Grandmother identified in shooting in New Town, N.D.

NEW TOWN, N.D. - A police source has confirmed the identity of a grandmother who was shot and killed here Sunday along with three of her grandchildren.

Scene of shootings
Police were no longer on the scene Monday morning of the New Town, N.D., house where a grandmother and three children were shot and killed Sunday afternoon. (Amy Dalrymple/Forum Communications)

NEW TOWN, N.D. - A police source has confirmed the identity of a grandmother who was shot and killed here Sunday along with three of her grandchildren.

Neighbors identified the grandmother as Martha Johnson, which was confirmed by a police source.

Nina Uran, who lives in Johnson's neighborhood and attended church with her, said Johnson recently had started caring for five grandchildren.

The FBI, aided by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is leading the investigation into five deaths with Mountrail County Sheriff Ken Halvorson, said an FBI spokesman.

A woman and three children were found Sunday afternoon, victims of "violent deaths," said Kyle Loven, spokesman in the FBI's regional headquarters in Minneapolis that includes North Dakota.


"We are looking at those deaths as homicides," Loven said today.

The death of a man whose body was found in nearby Parshall, N.D., is being investigated "In connection," with the New Town homicides, he said. "We are not looking at that death as a homicide," he said.

But he would not say whether it appeared to be a murder/suicide situation.

"This is a very fresh investigation," Loven said. "We are confident there is no threat to the public at large."

Community members have said the woman and children died from gunshots, but Loven said he could not provide such investigatory details today.

The FBI has taken the lead largely because New Town and Parshall are on an Indian reservation, Loven said.

"Right now we are the lead agency, working in concert with the BCI and the BIA," Loven said. "It really is a joint investigation."

Any serious crime on an Indian reservation typically can involve the FBI's jurisdiction, he said.


But the FBI's involvement does not mean necessarily that tribal members are involved in the case, Loven said.

New Town is about 60 miles southwest of Minot near the heart of North Dakota's Bakken oil boom. It also is the headquarters of the Fort Berthold Reservation of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara.

The FBI has agents stationed in Bismarck and Minot and its agents are on the ground today in New Town and Parshall, Loven said.

The police source said the 911 call about the New Town shooting was received at 3:17 p.m. Sunday and said the BCI completed processing of the crime scene early Monday.

The shooting deaths of the woman and children were "very terrifying" and sad, not only for the family but the whole community, said the Rev. Grant Patterson, pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in New Town. He knows the victims, he said.

Marc Bluestone, superintendent of the public school in New Town, said he decided to call off classes for today because of "the tragedy in our community."

Although he has not been told anything by the sheriff, from what he's heard from neighbors and friends, the child victims were students in the school.

"In the best interests of our community and school, with the limited information we have, my decision is to call off school for (today)," he said.

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