On March 4, 1980 my brother Ken Andre shot and killed four of his neighbors near Coos Bay, Oregon. My Brother Murdered His Neighbors (formerly titled Trying Not to Drown) is a straightforward account of what happened to him, my sister, our loving parents and me. Through time-laced lenses, it exposes the rawness of our feelings and the abandonment by family and friends. A story of victimization, religious hypocrisy, an extramarital affair and violence, it explores murder from inside the killer's family.
The brutal fiasco began on a rainy night. Standing on his neighbors' front porch, my brother Ken looked in on a husband, wife and one of their two young children as they watched Billy Graham. Ken tried the door. It was locked. He shot the doorknob. That failed to work. Taking aim from the front window he pulled the trigger again. The bullet passed through the man's head and into the easy chair. Knocking out the window with the butt of his rifle Ken climbed through, chased the woman down the hall and shot her point-blank in the head. The blast disintegrated the phone in her hand. Before his rampage was over he killed two more adults further down the country lane. All four died because of my big brother. My big brother. It was horrendous. That night and every night, thereafter, for a long time I was terrified. If my brother could do it, anyone could. There was no safety.
The murders triggered a cascade of events over which my immediate family and I had no control, resulting in far-reaching tragedies. For each of the bullets my brother discharged, I lost something I could not afford to lose, my brother, my father, my husband, my illusion of finding solace in family and friends, my career direction, my belief system, everything with meaning.
Alone with only minor help from my older sister, I took on the task of helping my parents sort through their guilt, grief and ongoing heartaches as they dealt with a system which sought to kill their only son. I lost belief in the good along with hope. I was stripped bare. My sentence for his crimes did not start coming to an end until nearly thirty years later. Our mother died. This is my story. I'd like to share it with you, so you will know what victimization is like from this side of the crime. During the age when mass shootings are becoming way too common, it is imperative that we understand all the issues. What my family went through gives a different and necessary perspective.