Duluth police: Man killed aunt, uncle, 2 kids before killing self

Two police officers walk down porch stairs.
Duluth Police Department officers leave 715 E.12th St. in Duluth on Wednesday. During a welfare check at the location law enforcement personnel discovered five deceased people and a deceased dog at the scene.
Clint Austin | Duluth News Tribune

Updated: 6:50 p.m.

Duluth police say the five people found shot to death Wednesday inside a home in the city's East Hillside neighborhood were killed in a murder-suicide.

Officials believe Brandon Taylor Cole-Skogstad, 29, was responsible for the killings of four family members at the home, where a family dog was also killed.

The family members, including two adults and two girls ages 9 and 12, were shot in their sleep, Mike Tusken, Duluth’s police chief, told reporters Thursday. Tusken said Cole-Skogstad was a nephew to the adults and cousin to the girls.

A single weapon was found near Cole-Skogstad at the scene, Duluth police said in a statement.

No motive was given. Tusken called it “a tragedy for Minnesota, a tragedy for certainly the city of Duluth and this community.”

In the statement Thursday, police said they’d responded Wednesday to a report of a person “experiencing a mental health crisis” that began with a late-morning call from police in neighboring Hermantown who’d been asked to check on Cole-Skogstad.

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Hermantown police couldn’t find him but made contact with “a family member who provided information that Cole-Skogstad had sent a message saying that he intended to harm himself and other family members.”

Hermantown police followed up with Duluth authorities, giving them an address to a home that Cole-Skogstad’s aunt and uncle owned on the 700 block of East 12th Street.

“Police officers approached the home, knocked on the door and officers heard what they believed to be a single gunshot,” according to the police statement. They retreated and sought backup from other departments.

Shortly after 3 p.m. Duluth police entered the home after using robots and drones to assist with the searching. Officers found the bodies. The victims are:

  • Riana Lou Barry, 44

  • Sean Christopher Barry, 47

  • Shiway Elizabeth Barry, 12

  • Sadie Lucille Barry, 9

Tusken said he’d never dealt with a scene with so many homicide deaths in 30 years of policing and that it was a devastating call for the officers who responded.

Authorities believe the message that had been sent to the family member was later found on social media. In that message, Cole-Skogstad speaks of suffering “many years of mental illness.”

Tusken said Duluth and Hermantown police looked through their 911 records, but found no past calls indicating any pattern of concerning behavior involving Cole-Skogstad.

Nicole Hubert said in an interview the victims were “a very fun family.”

She said had known them for about three years after her daughter became friends with Shiway at Lowell Elementary School and the two played on a basketball team together.

“They cared about a lot of people, loved their animals. I remember one time they showed me a picture of them taking care of a deer in a backyard,” Hubert said.

She also talked with Cole-Skogstad at the girls’ games and said “he was super down to earth, talking about video games or how much Shiway and the family meant to him.”

Resources if you or someone you know is considering suicide: