By Lori Grannis
MISSOULA, Mont. (Reuters) - A man who fatally shot his wife and three children in a remote Montana forest cabin over the weekend then set his house on fire and committed suicide was described on Tuesday by police as a survivalist who lived off the grid.
Michael Augustine Bournes, 59, called an acquaintance around the time he used a .45 caliber handgun to kill his wife, Arie Arlynn Lee, 37, and his two sons, Augustine Lee Bournes, 5, and Woodrow Lee Bournes, 4.
He shot his infant daughter, Arie Lee Bournes, 1, as she lay in her crib.
Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Police Chief Tim Barkell said that authorities who investigated the scene said books found at the cabin indicate Bournes may have been “a Constitutionalist who didn’t believe in government.”
Barkell, who described the couple as survivalists based on the fact that the residence was ‘off the grid’ or not hooked up to public utilities, said the family had moved to the area from New Mexico nearly three years ago, but was unknown to his department.
Barkell said each victim was shot once in the head and likely died instantly, but gave no details on the sequence of the deaths.
“We know where mother, baby and two boys were shot, and have a good idea of the order, but hate to put it out,” he said.
Barkell said Bournes shot his two sons outside the cabin, but carried them in and laid them on a bed beside his infant daughter’s crib. He then set fire to a chair, laid down beside his children, and turned the gun on himself.
Police said little is known of his motive other than when he called the acquaintance and threatened harm to his wife and children.
The acquaintance, who has chosen not to be identified, described Bournes to police as a relative loner who worked as a handyman, plumber and occasional logger, Barkell said. Autopsies are underway at the state crime laboratory in Missoula.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)