Community mourns 6 children found dead with parents in suspected murder-suicide

Five of the six children who died in a suspected murder-suicide in Tulsa, Okla., on October 27, 2022.
Five of the six children who died in a suspected murder-suicide in Tulsa, Okla., on October 27, 2022. | Family handout

Elected officials and several pastors banded together Sunday with community members at a prayer and healing service hosted by First Baptist Church Broken Arrow in Oklahoma to grieve the loss of six children and their parents found dead less than two weeks ago in what police suspect was a murder-suicide.

Police said on Oct. 27, neighbors reported a house fire near West Houston Street and South Elm Place at around 4 p.m. Authorities later discovered eight bodies inside the burned home, News On 6 reported.

The victims were identified as Brian Nelson, 34; his wife Brittney Nelson, 32; and their six children: Brian II, 13; Brantley, 9; Vegeta, 7; Ragnar, 5; Kurgan, 2; and Britannica, 1.

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"Less than two weeks ago, our community experienced a tragedy. And although this tragedy involved one family, it affects all of us because, at Broken Arrow, we are all part of a community that feels a lot like family," First Baptist Broken Arrow Executive Pastor Steve Smith said during the prayer service.

"We love our city, and in times like this, it's also our responsibility, but also our privilege, to do what we can to provide hope and healing."

Rich Mangaro, the pastor of nearby Harvest Church, said when he first got the call about the fire, he was "not expecting what happened." He said he was "heartbroken when the events started to unfold that evening." He was only left with questions asking, "Why?"

Police told the Tulsa World that the children were found dead in the back bedroom of the 980-square-foot home where they lived with their parents.

Brian Nelson's parents, Danny and Marilyn Nelson, told the publication that their son and his wife had been struggling financially for a while, including a $138,000 debt load that included $127,081 in unpaid student loans. Both parents were also unemployed.

"I think the stress was what got to them — trying to figure out how to make it from one month to one month to one month," Danny Nelson told the Tulsa World.

Marilyn Nelson said that years earlier, her son, who owns several guns and reportedly always had one on him, suffered an injury to his head while working in retail. She said he has never been the same mentally since then and has suffered excruciating headaches due to the injury.

"Every time one of those headaches came around, he just would lose it because it was so excruciating," she said.

"I want people to know that at one time, he had all his brain together," the grandmother said. "I just don't understand why they did what they did. I just don't understand why he ended up in that situation. I talk to God all the time — and I just don't understand."

In her remarks Sunday, Broken Arrow Mayor Debra Wimpee blamed the tragedy on mental health "coupled with evil."

"As we gather here today, some still reeling from the tragic deaths of eight residents, six of which were precious, innocent children, seem senselessly that took them from our city and their remaining family," she said. "We seek to make sense of this and to understand the reason why this happened. Unfortunately, this is another example of the need to address mental illness in our nation. Mental illness coupled with evil has tragic endings. Endings we cannot begin to understand."

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