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JW Triple murder-suicide shatters quiet of Keego Harbor

Jack Ryan

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Keego Harbor Â— A quiet residential street became a horrific crime scene Friday with news that four people — a couple and their adult children — died in what police are describing as a triple murder-suicide.


By late afternoon, some yellow police crime scene tape remained around the two-story wood frame bungalow in the 2300 block of Cass Lake Road where police were sent about 8:10 a.m. on a welfare check after a relative became worried about the family, Keego Harbor Police Chief John Fitzgerald said.

“A relative had concerns and asked us to look into it,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s tragic and our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”

Inside the house officers found four bodies who neighbors identified as Daniel Stuart, 47, his wife, Lauren, 45, and their children, Bethany, 24, and Steven, 27.

Fitzgerald said the “perpetrator” was among the dead but would not provide details other than to stress “we think we know what happened here and there is no danger to neighbors.”

Fitzgerald said police have recovered what is believed to be the murder weapon but would not elaborate. He said all the deaths remain under investigation.

Neighbors John and Jackie Tristani said they awoke Friday to learn police were outside the victimsÂ’ home.

“My son said police were repeatedly calling out ‘Lauren, come outside,’ " said John Tristani. “When she didn’t respond they (police) went inside. A few minutes later, they came back outside, shaking their heads.”

Tristani said he had been watching television late Thursday night and never heard anything from the Stuarts' home.

Sources close to the investigation said the family pet, a dog, was also slain by the killer. Investigators also found a note which may help explain what led up to the deaths. They would not discuss its contents.

The deaths puzzle the Tristanis, who knew Lauren Stuart as a “hard-working” neighbor who could often be seen working in her yard and remodeled the house largely on her own.

“She would often come over and borrow tools – a saw, a pickaxe – whatever,” said Tristani. “She was always doing something.”

The Tristanis said in one of their first meetings with Lauren Stuart a few years ago she attempted to “recruit” them into the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“I said we were Catholics and weren’t interested,” he said. “She accepted the answer and it was the end of that.”

Lauren Stuart worked at an area gym, he said, and her husband was involved in some form of medical business in the Ann Arbor area.

Darlene and Dennis Buck, who live a block away on Cass Lake Road, said they were enroute home from a trip to northern Michigan when they learned of the murder-suicide.

“We have lived here since ’74 and nothing like this has ever happened in our neighborhood — not even close,” said Darlene Buck.

Jackie Tristani said she found it all “scary” – not just the deaths but that something might have been going on in a neighbor’s home without her knowledge. She had tried to get Bethany a job at her workplace and her son knew both Bethany and Steven. There was never any mention or indication of trouble inside the home, she said.

“I would hope that if there was a problem inside there someone would have reached out, we would have tried to help,” she said, her voice quaking. “Maybe we could have done something.

“But you never really know everything there is about your neighbors, do you?”


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He could still be forgiven by Jehovah. Manasseh was reinstated as king after killing his sons. So their is biblical precedent.

All their sins are now forgiven since they have all died.

Their next thoughts will be in Paradise.

And the story even mentions the spouse as  preaching the good news to her neighbor. ... so by her good works her spouse will be saved if he became an unbeliever at some point. Which in this case he had to have at the last moment.

Except the dog. We will never see him again in Paradise.


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Friends: Jehovah's Witnesses shunning drove Keego Harbor mom to murder-suicide

An apparent triple murder-suicide involving four family members left residents of the small town of Keego Harbor stunned and searching for answers. Wochit

At 45, Lauren Stuart appeared to have it all.

A successful husband. Two college-educated kids. A modeling portfolio. And a charming home in Keego Harbor with a heart wreath on the door.

But behind the seemingly idyllic life, friends say Stuart struggled with the anguish of being ostracized from the religion she and her husband had been raised in. About five years ago, Stuart and her husband left the Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christian denomination that has been criticized for its strict indoctrination and for its practice of shunning former members.

Friends and others believe that struggle with being shunned may have driven Stuart to do the unthinkable.

Last week, Stuart shot and killed her husband and two adult children, and then killed herself. Police found the bodies Friday morning while responding to a call from a concerned relative.

The tragedy sent longtime family friend Joyce Taylor reeling as she and others say they believe the murder-suicide was the result of shunning by the Jehovah's Witnesses. She said the Stuarts left the religion more than five years ago because of "doctrinal and social issues."

According to Taylor and several other former Jehovah's Witnesses who talked to the Free Press, when someone leaves the religion, a drastic shunning takes place: No one inside the religion, even parents, are allowed to speak to the departed again.

Taylor barged into a Kingdom Hall meeting in Union Lake over the weekend, stood on a chair and lambasted the gathering.

“Excuse me everyone, My name is Joyce Taylor ... Two days ago, four people died as a result of your shunning process,"  Taylor said, while batting away members and yelling at them. "Five years ago you people pulled your support from this small family, the only support they had was you people. You turned them away and you shunned them."

"For what?!!," she screamed loudly. "Because they wanted to raise their children as they saw fit.”

According to Taylor, Lauren Stuart and Daniel Stuart, 47, wanted to send their children to college, but the religion forbids that. They did so anyway. Their son Steven, 27, excelled in computers, just like his father, who was a data solutions architect for the University of Michigan’s Center for Integrative Research in Critical Care. Bethany, 24, excelled in art and graphic design.

"All they wanted to do was raise their family the way they wanted to," Taylor told the Free Press on Monday, saying the Stuarts were ostracized by their parents and everyone in the Jehovah's Witnesses community when they left.

"They were shunned every way possible. If Lauren went to the grocery store, they didn't look her in the eye," said Taylor, a former Jehovah's Witness herself. "When you are raised a Jehovah's Witness, they choose your friends. They choose who you associate with. And if you go against that, they will dis-fellowship you, or shun you."

The Free Press called the Union Lake Kingdom Hall on Monday, but no one answered. Multiple phone messages were left with the elders of Kingdom Hall, but none of the calls were returned. Messages to the Jehovah's Witnesses national headquarters also were not returned.


Lauren Stuart, 45, of Keego Harbor (Photo: courtesy, Brittni Beversdorf)

Taylor, who last saw her friend a week before she was found dead, said she doesn't know exactly what drove her friend over the edge. She believes that her friend was battling some kind of personal problem, but felt so alone in the world because of being ostracized by her former religious community that she did what she did.

"She worshiped Danny. Danny worshiped her. They were like hand in glove. But she was very concerned about Dan. He was prone to depression and she was always worried about him," Taylor said.

She later added: "She was in emotional distress ... she felt alone. I was her lifeline."

According to interviews with friends, neighbors and employers, Lauren Stuart, after leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses, appeared to be set on making a new life for herself. She contacted modeling agencies and photographers to see whether there was a market for older models like herself. She also worked as a part-time personal trainer at the YMCA in Farmington Hills a few years ago and cleaned houses.

This is how she referred to herself in one online post:  "I love acting and modeling. I am a very passionate person and it reflects in my work. I am adventurous in nature and so I like a wide variety of acting and modeling experiences. I enjoy learning new things especially with good direction. ...  Life is an adventure and my goal is to die knowing I did the things I wanted to do."

Bernadette Strickland, director of the John Casablancas modeling studio in Plymouth, was among those who gave Lauren Stuart a shot at modeling.

"I remember her because she had enrolled in our workshops. She was very nice. She asked a lot of questions," said Strickland, who recalled Lauren Stuart being happy and having a good life.

"She looked like she had a great family and she was very attractive. She kept herself up so well,"  said Strickland, adding she was "very sorry" and shocked to learn of what happened.

New Haven photographer Brittni Beversdorf had similar memories. She said she met Lauren and photographed her in 2012. At the time, she said, Lauren and her husband had  just bought their home in Keego Harbor and Lauren was excited about renovating it herself.

"She was very friendly," Beversdorf said, noting she was "shocked" to learn of the woman's tragic death.

Taylor said that she last saw Lauren Stuart a week before she and her family were discovered dead.

"She came over to my house. we had tea, coffee and talked," Taylor said, noting her friend gave no signs that she was about to do something terrible.

She said Lauren talked about her kids and expressed excitement about her husband being involved in a project at the University of Michigan, where, she said, he was helping develop a software program that helps detect heart attacks.

"She was talking about the business he was hoping to get going, how much she was looking forward to it. We talked about that, our kids," Taylor recalled.

And then came the phone call. A week later, a mutual friend called Taylor and told her about the murder-suicide.

"I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it," she kept saying.

Keego Harbor police declined comment, saying only that the investigation is ongoing.

This is not the first such incident.

In 2001, the shame of being thrown out of the JehovahÂ’s Witnesses drove former Michigander Christian Longo to murder his wife and three young children in Oregon. Authorities said his financial troubles triggered his expulsion from the religious group, which then triggered the killings.

In 2014, a family of four was found dead in their South Carolina home in a murder suicide carried out by the father, who was a devout JehovahÂ’s Witness. All four were shot in the head.


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Report shows how Keego Harbor woman killed herself and her entire family

As the demons consumed her, Lauren Stuart plotted. 

Weeks before she did the unthinkable, the distraught Keego Harbor woman researched suicide methods on YouTube and watched videos on how to use a Glock handgun.

She made a video of herself saying that she was “broken” and that she didn’t want to burden her family. She left a suicide note on the dinner table, tidied up the house, texted a relative and her husband's boss,  and turned over the family photos on a secretary desk.

Then, she ended it all.

“I took my husband and kids with me so they don’t have to feel my selfish act. They will sleep until Christ resurrects them,” Stuart texted a cousin on Feb. 15 at 5:07 p.m. “I truly hope you do better where I have failed.” 

Months after a murder suicide stunned the sleepy town of Keego Harbor, the Free Press has obtained investigative documents that shed light on what drove an aspiring model to kill her two grown children, her husband, herself and the family dog. 

According to police records and interviews with family, friends and neighbors, Stuart  battled many problems, including depression, ostracism from the Jehovah Witness church, and mental scars stemming from alleged sexual abuse as a child.

These factors combined, police believe, led Stuart to cave to despair on a February weekday when she fatally shot her son, daughter and husband — using pillows to suppress the sound — before shooting herself between the eyes.

According to police records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, here is a timeline detailing what happened, on both the day of the killings and the weeks leading up to them: 

  • Feb. 6 at 11 p.m.: Lauren recorded a 2-minute video of herself explaining that her pending suicide had nothing to do with her family, but that she had “many issues,” that she “canÂ’t do it anymore” and didnÂ’t want to be a burden to her family.
  • Feb. 7 at around 1 p.m.: She recorded another short video talking about her “path of destruction” and childhood sexual abuse by a relative that she said drove her to want to commit suicide. 
  • Feb. 15 at 9:24 a.m.: Lauren sent her husbandÂ’s boss a text: “Mark, this is Lauren. Dan had a accident this morning and has died. I canÂ’t talk now. Someone will inform you later on details at hospital.” The boss texted back asking for more information, but she never responded. 
  • Feb. 15 at 5:07 p.m.: Lauren texted her cousin telling her she “became evil” and that she “took my husband and kids so they donÂ’t have to feel my selfish act.” That was the last communication Lauren ever made. Her cousin texted her back stating: “Lauren, you are scaring me? What are u saying????? Â… DonÂ’t do it Lauren.”
  • Feb. 15 between 9 and 10 p.m.:  A neighbor heard gunshots. She thought someone was slamming doors. It was Lauren killing the dog, which was found in a bathtub the next morning by police, along with the four bodies.

The cousin, who tried texting Lauren again at 1 a.m., never heard back. She went over to the house the following morning with a friend. When no one came to the door, she called police to conduct a welfare check.

‘This was premeditated’ 

Police still don’t know exactly what time the family members were shot, but they believe the daughter was killed first and that the mother lured her 27-year-old son over to the house, citing a text message she wrote her son on Valentine’s Day, asking him if he “was still coming over to the house” at noon on Feb. 15. He had already been there on Valentine’s Day.

“This was premeditated and carefully planned out by Lauren,” wrote police, who believe Lauren Stuart had her son over on Valentine’s Day to conduct a  “dry run” of her murder-suicide.

When police arrived at the house the morning of Feb. 16, the  kitchen was organized. The refrigerator was stocked. Handwritten labels were on various items and a calendar hung on the refrigerator. 

First, they found the dog. An officer, fearing there was an active shooter, yelled to a partner, “get your gun out? There’s a dead dog in the tub.”

Additional units were called. The officers then climbed a spiral staircase to the second floor and found the son. Steven Stuart, a skilled computer expert like his dad, facedown on the floor of a spare bedroom. Police say they believe he was sitting in a chair when he was shot in the head twice and fell to the floor. 

In another bedroom, they found the daughter, Bethany, 24, a graphic designer and passionate artist who was shot in the head while she slept in a bed. A pillow was placed over her head beforehand, presumably to suppress the sound. Police found visible gunshots through the pillow case. 

Stewart’s husband, Dan, a software designer at the University of Michigan Medical School, was found on the basement floor in front of a couch with a gunshot wound to the head. His right hand was in the front pocket of his jeans and the white pocket liner was slightly pulled from the left pocket, suggesting he was standing when he was shot and tried to react, thus pulling the pocket liner.

Lauren was found at the base of the stairs in a corner with a pistol next to her. She had shot herself between the eyes, a method she had researched on the Internet.

On the dinner table there were two notes. One was addressed to the Medical Examiner, the other a suicide note. 

“I allowed evil into my heart when I chose not to accept God’s free love and it made me sick inside,” she wrote. “I killed my family because I know my death would stumble them. At least now they will not suffer and will be resurrected into love forever in peace.”

Immersed in religion

Police interviewed multiple family members, friends and neighbors who described the Stuarts as a quiet and sometimes “odd” couple who were estranged from their family because of their leaving the Jehovah’s Witness church about 10 years ago.

Multiple family members said that Lauren, who had 11 siblings, long suffered from depression that got worse after she had her children. In recent months, they said she became more religiously preoccupied and went off on rants.

Lauren’s father told police that he had not spoken to his daughter in years and that her mother died when she was 13. He said that he never cared for her husband and that he believes “Dan pulled Lauren away from the family.” 

One of Lauren’s sisters told police that she had not spoken to Lauren in six years and that she, too, believes “Dan pulled Lauren away from the family.”  She told police that Lauren and her husband both suffered from mental illness and that they “fed off of each other.” She said her sister was deemed “Apostasy” for speaking out against the JWs and leaving the organization. 

“It is clear that Lauren showed symptoms of severe depression and displayed abnormal behavior leading up to the incident,” police wrote in their investigative notes. “It would appear that Lauren immersed herself in her own world of her version of religion and increased depression.”

She got no help. No professional counseling. No prescription drugs were found in her system. And although there was no alcohol found in her system, according in to the investigation report, there were small traces of marijuana found in her system, and also in that of her husband and son. 

That, coupled with the loneliness, the loss of family and friends over religion and childhood scars, “manifested, magnified and drove her” to do what she did, police concluded.

“Lauren’s’ complete immersion into religion appeared to have only further alienated her and her family from friends and other family which may have compounded her already fragile state of mind,” police wrote, noting one of Lauren’s sisters expressed little remorse about the tragedy.

In a statement that perhaps best exemplifies how estranged from her family Lauren was, police wrote:

“(The sister) showed a very solemn and somber demeanor when she spoke and stated that she is not sad for Lauren and her family and that when she heard the news of her sister’s actions, she was not surprised in the slightest.”



- I personally think the cold hearted father and sister should be feeling quite guilty right about now. Thier PIOUS disfellowshipping landed them rotten fruitage. Completely ANTI-LOVE. ANTI WHAT GOD WANTS.

Jehovah is a foremost a GOD OF LOVE.

Her sister sounds almost reptilian-like cold hearted from this story.

All Jehovah's Witnesses everywhere need to reflect on thier Pharisaic attitudes and do as Jesus commands:

STOP JUDGING THAT YOU MAY NOT BE JUDGED.   (as have the public judged the father and sister in this case)

No amount of preaching will overcome the many stories like this.


Are you listening JW.org and the Governing Body?

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On 5/18/2018 at 9:48 AM, Jack Ryan said:

- I personally think the cold hearted father and sister should be feeling quite guilty right about now. Thier PIOUS disfellowshipping landed them rotten fruitage. Completely ANTI-LOVE. ANTI WHAT GOD WANTS.

Jehovah is a foremost a GOD OF LOVE.

Her sister sounds almost reptilian-like cold hearted from this story.

All Jehovah's Witnesses everywhere need to reflect on thier Pharisaic attitudes and do as Jesus commands:

STOP JUDGING THAT YOU MAY NOT BE JUDGED.   (as have the public judged the father and sister in this case)

No amount of preaching will overcome the many stories like this.


Are you listening JW.org and the Governing Body?

The story is indeed tragic, but we do not know for sure of the situation in greater detail with the Father and Sister, let alone words from the siblings themselves regarding those in question. Both the victim and her husband were having mental issues anyways and have been away from the religion for more than 5 years, if we are also to take the word of the others who had their say, like the Catholic couple.

Other then that, if you are not a fan of expelling, then you should join those who want Apostle Paul's teachings purged from the Bible, since the idea and practice of expelling did stem from Paul, and to some extent, Jesus, so the gospel of Matthew, specifically chapter 16, must be purged also.

God is indeed a God of love, but we have to remember, us as human beings are imperfect, anything can happen at any given time, problems will ensue and the like, so pinning the blame on a group who had no action in the 5 year period of this person is silly, in addition, they did not put the intent in mind or the gun in her hand. Elsewhere, people are not looking at this as a Religion Based Problem, they are looking at it as a Racial Problem, for at the time of this murder-suicide, there had been several murder-suicides that took place on that very week, all done by Caucasian (White) People, and thus the blame is being pinned on all people who are white, when the reality is, those who choose to take action upon ill intent in mind has done so by means of going over the edge, therefore it is unwise to blame a whole group for the actions of a few bad eggs, in this case, a mother who clearly had mental issues and a problematic past, who did use religion and other means to cope with her issues, I do not know what to say about the husband because clearly he was not right in the head also.

But as I said before on here, everyone, even in the same faith community is different. You can have a Christian in the Congo who is a true Christian vs that of a British Christian who is leading a double life, same faith, but clearly they are not the same person, for a Christian man can do a crazy crime that caused trouble and even injury and death to some person(s), does not mean the all Christians are the enemy, the picture that Atheist seem to paint on all Christians regardless of the denomination.

That being said, like I said, if you wish for expelling to be a practice that is abandon by the mainstream Christians, they it is advise you ignore chapter 16 of Matthew and ignore Apostle Paul, for most Christians who take the bible seriously really take into account of what is said in the scriptures, no matter how you try to knock it, hence the difference between mainstream and true Christian practice.

All in all, tragic, but pointing the blame won't help anyone, especially when you know exactly who had the gun in their hand to take out people and then themselves, this goes for a numerous murder-suicides that took place that very week, including this one.

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@Jack Ryan Unfortunately using a murder-suicide to push an agenda will not help anyone here, nor the family of the victims or anyone who knew them. It gets a bit hypocritical also judging on this murder-suicide being one of many murder-suicides that took place that week, nearly identical as well, in addition, this mirrors that of the gun-tooting Christian woman who offed her family then herself.

At the end of the day, the one wholes the gun has ill intent, be a Jehovah's Witnesses, a Baptist, a Protester, a Muslim, a man or woman of racial background, a skinhead, etc.

But with all of this, people still look for someone to blame, mainly when the story has been pieced together, and the more this continues, the more it will continue to put people at risk, if I am not mistaken there has been several situations against JWs and other churches already.

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