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Robert BRYANT

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: February 23, 2002
Date of birth: 1964
Victims profile: His wife Janet Ellen Bryant, 37, and their four children, Clayton, 15, Ethan, 12, Ashley, 10, and Alissa, 9
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day
 
 

 
 

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Family of six found dead; police believe father killed family, then self

March 15, 2002

MCMINNVILLE - The community of McMinnville was visibly shaken after investigators discovered a family of six shot to death in their home in an apparent murder-suicide Friday.

Robert Bryant is believed to have shot his wife and four children - whose ages range from 9 to 15 - before turning the gun on himself, said Yamhill County District Attorney Bradley C. Berry.

Robert Bryant was found dead in the living room, 37-year-old Janet Ellen Bryant in the master bedroom, and their four children in their beds, Berry said.

All had been killed by shotgun blasts.

"Evidence ... indicates that Mr. Robert Bryant killed his wife and children and then took his own life," Berry said, although a motive is not yet known.

"It was a horrible sight," Berry said.

The children last attended school on Feb. 22, and the shootings are believed to have occurred the following day, he said.

Dead are the 37-year-old father, his 37-year-old wife, Janet Ellen Bryant, as well as 15-year-old Clayton, 12-year-old Ethan, 10-year-old Ashley and 9-year-old Alissa Bryant.

Bryant was a self-employed landscaping contractor.

Family Leaves California After Being Shunned; Bryant Parents Worried About Custody Battle

A former California neighbor, Albert Clary, said the Bryants and their relatives were Jehovah's Witnesses.

According to Clary, Robert Bryant got into an argument with a church leader over the Bible while he and his family were still living in California.

The family was reportedly shunned by both other Jehovah's witnesses as well as their own relatives following the incident.

In fact, the Bryants were essentially kicked out of the church three years ago, KATU News learned from an elder church member of the California congregation to which the Bryants belonged.

"Mr. Bryant was expelled from the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses for conduct that was not in harmony with Bible principles, and chose to move his family from the area away from friends and family," said congregation elder Mark Messier Sr.

Also, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant were concerned that relatives may seek custody of their four children, Messier said.

According to the church elder, relatives of the Bryant family had already filed documents in an effort to seek custody.

The Bryants came to Oregon last summer to make a fresh start, a former neighbor of the family told KATU News.

Two Jehovah's Witnesses who were at the McMinnville church on Friday said they had never heard of the Bryants.

A study of California bankruptcy records indicates that the family moved to McMinnville from Shingle Springs California, where the father had a landscaping business called Bryant's Landscape Maintenance.

A Gruesome Discovery

Two Yamhill County sheriff's deputies were in the vicinity of the Bryants' McMinnville home Thursday night when neighbors approached them to express concern about the family.

Deputies spotted what appeared to be a body inside the home. They obtained a search warrant and found all six bodies inside.

On Friday, deputies roped off the area around the Bryants' manufactured home on a hillside outside McMinnville, a prosperous town in the heart of Oregon's wine-growing country.

Detectives searched the grounds for clues but found nothing.

The home sits on about two acres of a rural subdivision west of McMinnville, in hills at the foot of Oregon's Coast Range and about 20 miles south of Portland.

"There Were No Warning Signs"

Neighbors told investigators the Bryants were planning to build a larger house on the site.

"It was our understanding that they planned to build a bigger home and then sell it...so he had a lot of ideas of what he was going to do in the future, so this really surprised us," family acquaintance Colin Armstrong told KATU News.

In a phone interview, Jeanna Wright told katu.com that her daughter Jaden was friends with Ashley Bryant at Memorial Elementary School. Mrs. Wright said her daughter had not seen Ashley in Mrs. Mecker's class for two weeks and was concerned.

Karen Richey, assistant superintendent for the McMinnville School District, said teachers had noticed the children's absence from school and several attempts were made to contact the Bryants.

"We had people knocking on the door several times," but no one ever answered the door, she said.

At first school officials weren't alarmed, because it is not uncommon for students to be absent during the flu season, she said.

School officials say that a 10-day absence is not unheard of, and there were no real warning signs to alert them that anything may have been wrong at home.

Ashley's younger sister Alissa was a second grade student at Memorial Elementary.

Ethan was a sixth grader at Patton Middle School, and Clayton, the oldest, attended McMinnville High School.

The Children Were Well-Liked

Not surprisingly, this apparent murder-suicide has saddened many who knew the Bryant children.

"Ethan Bryant was a very nice young man, he had many friends. We are very saddened by this tragedy," Assistant Principal of Patton Middle School, Mark Hyder told katu.com.

"Ethan was new to our district this year...he was a very popular sixth-grader," said Hyder. "We're just trying to get through this day supporting students and their families."

In a press conference this morning, McMinnville Superintendent Elaine Taylor told the media, "the Memorial staff is understandably very grief-stricken, the two teachers of the children...are having a difficult time..."

It was clear that Taylor was struggling to maintain composure.

Alissa and Ashley Bryant were described by Memorial Elementary staff as "bright students who showed an interest in school."

McMinnville High School, Patton Middle School, and Memorial Elementary all have extra counselors on site today to help students and staff cope with their grief.


Bryants described as 'perfect family'

March 16, 2002

MCMINNVILLE, ORE. (AP) - Robert Bryant moved his family to Oregon from California last year abruptly after becoming estranged from his parents and siblings over church issues and going into bankruptcy.

Things started getting better when they arrived in McMinnville.

Now, friends and acquaintances are asking themselves why Bryant would kill his wife Janet, their four children and himself, destroying what one acquaintance called "a perfect family."

Yamhill County District Attorney Bradley Berry has listed the deaths as murder-suicide and says they probably took place about Feb. 23. They were not reported until suspicious neighbors alerted sheriff's deputies late Thursday night.

Dead are Robert Arlie and Janet Ellen, both 37, and children Clayton Keith, 15, Ethan Lance, 12, Ashley Rose, 10, and Alyssa Megan, 9.

Investigators believe Robert Bryant killed the other five with one shotgun blast each, then turned the gun on himself.

Neighbors in McMinnville and a family spokesman in California say the fallout was due to undisclosed differences between Bryant and the Jehovah's Witness church he had attended for years.

Jehovah's Witnesses in Shingle Springs had banned Robert Bryant from the congregation there, an act that members call "disfellowship." The action was taken, church elder Mark Messier said, for Bryant's "unrepentant behavior" that violated church beliefs. Then his family apparently did so as well.

RV park owner Howard Angell said Robert confided the family had left a "big problem" in California, actually fleeing out of fear in the middle of the night, the McMinnville News-Register reported.

Hermina Sampson of McMinnville met Robert Bryant soon after he came to town last summer and was going door to door drumming up work for his landscaping business. "He told me he had to get away from the grandparents," she said. "The grandparents were kind of trying to brainwash the children."

A former California neighbor, Albert Clary, said Robert Bryant held Bible studies every Tuesday at his Shingle Springs home. But he homeschooled his children and limited other interaction. "They were sort of standoffish people," Clary said.

Berry said investigators may never learn why a man described as mild-mannered and deeply religious would murder a wife and children described as doting and devoted.

The family had installed a double-wide mobile home on a two-acre lot west of town in December. The Bryants enrolled the children in McMinnville public schools. They had planned to live in the mobile home only long enough to build a new house.

Four weapons were found in the house including two shotguns that Berry said were used in the crime.

Each family member died from a single blast at close range. "One shotgun shell casing was accounted for and recovered at the scene for each victim," Berry said.

The children had virtually perfect attendance records through Friday, Feb. 22. But they had not been seen in class since.

Phone calls and checks at the house got no answer.

"They were just as nice a couple as you'd ever want to meet," said Dennis Goecks, who sold the Bryants the two-acre lot last summer.

"It's one of those things that just doesn't compute."

The family lived in Shingle Springs quietly and, according to those who knew them were polite, but not outgoing. Brenda Maranville rented the Bryants a house for four years, and then sold it to them.

"They were wonderful renters, they were immaculate caretakers, their kids were always so well behaved - it's like the perfect family," she said.

Goecks said the Bryants bought the view lot west of McMinnville from him last summer and had finished paying for it by the end of the year.

Peggy Ojeda, office manager of the Dayton park where the family stayed for a short time said the family arrived June 11.

One of his first steps was creation of Bryant's Landscape & Maintenance, registered with the state at the RV park address.

"They were an extremely nice, very quiet family," Ojeda said. "They did everything together. "The children positively drooled over their dad. They never seemed afraid of him."

They aggressively advertised the business, both in the newspaper and with leaflets, and the business took off.

Robert presented a proposal to RV park owner Angell to re-landscape the entire park, but phoned back in November to say he had taken on too much other work.

Vern Skoog of Homes America had many dealings with the family in connection with the double-wide home's purchase. He remembers Robert as a "really pleasant guy." Skoog said, "He had gone through some difficulties in California, including a business bankruptcy. He was looking to make a fresh start."

The Bryants moved into the home just before Christmas.

On Jan. 13, 2000, the Bryants filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. They had unsecured debts of $57,000, mostly on credit cards. They had a home valued at $175,000, but had little equity in it.

The bankruptcy freed the Bryants from the credit card debt and some of the other debt.

By June, the Bryants had a fresh start, and set out to rebuild their businesses and finances. They continued to pay off more than $11,000 that they legally didn't have pay to Steve and Brenda Maranville.

"We struggled a little bit to get financing in place, but we were able to do it," Skoog said. He said he discounts financial pressures as a reason for the murder-suicide. The Bryant's California bankruptcy attorney agreed. "The bankruptcy took care of their financial problems," said Julia Gibbs. "They probably should have been fine."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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