A custody dispute between a couple and child welfare officials may be a factor in a murder-suicide near an Alexandria farm earlier this week, the Star Tribune reports.
The Alexandria Echo Press says officials identified Katie Christopherson, 29, and Devin Blowers, 25, of Fargo, North Dakota, as the couple who died in the incident. Police say Blowers shot Douglas County sheriff’s deputy Dustin Alexander before fleeing – first in a car, then on foot – after the vehicle got stuck in snow. Shortly after, Blowers fatally shot Christopherson, then himself.
The deputy, who was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, survived the shooting and is recovering, WCCO says.
Devin Blowers' father, Jeff Blowers, told the Star Tribune his son was distraught because child welfare officials in Fargo wouldn't let the couple have custody of their baby girl, Bennie.
According to The Associated Press, Jeff Blowers says the infant was born three months premature on Jan. 13 and remains in a Fargo hospital.
Blowers' father says his son has a history of drug problems and met Christopherson at a rehab center last year. They were both released from the facility in July. Jeff Blowers says Cass County authorities wanted the couple to return to treatment until April 22 – the woman's original due date – before they would release the infant to their custody.
"They were telling them they had to have a 30-day certificate from a treatment center and only then could they have their child," Jeff Blowers told the Star Tribune. "It must have pushed them over the edge."
Jeff Blowers tells the paper that his son called the day before the incident saying he was going to commit suicide, and Christopherson called her mother with the same fears.
"They wouldn’t tell us where they were so we could go get them," Jeff Blowers said.
The incident unfolded about 9:20 p.m. Monday night report of a suspicious vehicle in the driveway of a home in the northwestern Minnesota township. Alexander found Blowers and Christopherson inside the vehicle, and Blowers fired at the deputy, hitting him in the chest. The officer reportedly returned fire and the two suspects drove off.
The suspects’ car traveled a short distance before it got stuck in the snow. Blowers and Christopherson then fled on foot, firing more shots at the deputy, according to the Duluth News Tribune. The two were reportedly found dead four hours later in deep snow, about 200 yards from the vehicle. A State Patrol helicopter using infrared technology located the bodies.
Blowers' father told the Star Tribune he was "just shocked" by his son's violent outburst, saying "he was a good man and this was totally off the wall for him."