Portrait emerges of family killed in murder-suicide

Only evidence for man’s motive comes from 911 call saying his wife had been mocking him

By Matt Volz
Associated Press

DEER LODGE, Mont. (AP) - Augustine "Mike" Bournes carried an anti-government streak that was the product of a run-in with the law 20 years ago, leading him to build an off-the-grid cabin for his family in remote, southwestern Montana, miles away from any neighbors.

His wife, Arie Arlynn Lee, was more sociable and was trying to become involved with the community, even though it meant a 45-minute drive into town over a rough dirt road from their home in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

Their two boys, 5-year-old Augustine and 4-year-old Woodrow, played youth sports, and Lee doted over their 1-year-old daughter, Arie.

A portrait of the family began to emerge in the days following Sunday morning's murder-suicide that left all five dead. Police said they believe comments by Lee mocking Bournes set him off, and he shot her and their three children in the head with a .45 caliber handgun before setting fire to the cabin.

He then lay down next to his children's bodies, which he had lined up together on a bed, and shot himself, Anaconda-Deer Lodge Police Chief Tim Barkell said.

The only evidence police have for motive is a 911 call from an acquaintance who said Bournes called him to say he had shot his family after "his wife had been mocking and riding him all day."

Barkell said Bournes had constitutionalist and anti-government literature in his pickup truck outside the Montana cabin, and the police chief described him as someone who didn't want anything to do with government.

Interviews with his ex-wife and acquaintances in town supported that view. His wife of 33 years, Darla Schuppan, said he began to change after he was charged in New Mexico 1995 with false imprisonment and aggravated assault.

The charges stemmed from Bournes using a bulldozer to block a person who was driving across his property near the town of Grants from exiting. Schuppan called the encounter a misunderstanding and a jury acquitted Bournes in 1997, but it stuck with him.

"The incident on the mountain really turned him sour against the government," she said. "He felt like things were unfair."

After that, they moved to a more remote area of New Mexico with no electricity. Bournes became more and more controlling over the years, and she said he forced her to end contact with her family during the last eight years of their marriage.

"Everything was wrong with everybody else," she said. "He would never admit anything was wrong with him."

Schuppan said she left him in 2007 when he punched her in the face in front of her grandson.

It is not clear when Bournes met Lee, but they moved to Montana with their two children less than three years ago, Barkell said.

Bournes bought the 20 acres of land between five and seven years ago, said Steve Kamps, who sold the remote mountain property.

Bournes built the cabin himself in 2013, and a year later he and Lee had a daughter.

Anaconda-Deer Lodge officials said Bournes was virtually unknown to county and law enforcement officials. He never filed the deed from the purchase of the land, and he didn't apply for the permits required for the cabin, county planning director Doug Clark said.

Bournes earned money by performing odd jobs such as plumbing and logging, Barkell said.

Lee seemed to be making an effort to become part of the community, said Muriah Buck, owner of the Muriah's of Montana restaurant where the family ate a few times a month.

Lee liked to talk about her children and was cheerful and outgoing when her husband left the table, as he often did to avoid conversation, but she grew quiet and pensive when he returned, Buck said.

Lee was cast in the town's upcoming production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" as the maid Calpurnia after the theater owners spotted her in the audience of "Mary Poppins."

"We needed a lot of African-Americans in 'Mockingbird,' so we asked her, and she said yes," said owner Kelly Cutler.

Lee made the drive to town for four or five rehearsals, but never showed up Sunday afternoon. Cutler and the cast learned what happened later.

Barkell said the investigation into the shooting had concluded except for tying loose ends. Lee's brother was headed to Montana from Spokane, Washington, and the bodies were being examined at the state crime lab in Missoula.

Published: Thu, Jun 11, 2015