The custody of a suddenly orphaned newborn might have instigated a violent shootout on a frozen farm near Alexandria this week.
A construction worker who shot a deputy and then killed his girlfriend before committing suicide was distraught because child welfare officials in Fargo wouldn’t let the couple have custody of their baby girl, his father says.
Authorities said Wednesday that Devin Blowers, 24, shot Douglas County sheriff’s deputy Dustin Alexander before a murder-suicide Monday night that claimed the life of 29-year-old Katie Ray Christopherson. The deputy was saved by his bullet-resistant vest.
“She called her mother the day before and he called us, saying he was going to commit suicide,” Jeff Blowers, Devin’s father, said in a telephone interview from Minot, N.D. “They wouldn’t tell us where they were so we could go get them.”
Blowers said his son had a history of drug problems and met Christopherson at a Fargo rehabilitation center last year. They were released July 7 and their daughter, Bennie, was born three months prematurely on Jan. 13. Christopherson had been living in Fargo since moving from Savage, Minn. Blowers was originally from Minot but was also living in Fargo.
The baby remains in a Fargo hospital. Cass County child protection authorities had wanted the couple to return to treatment before they would release the infant to their custody on what was supposed to be Christopherson’s due date of April 22, Jeff Blowers said.
“They were telling them they had to have a 30-day certificate from a treatment center and only then could they have their child,” he said. “It must have pushed them over the edge.”
Child protection authorities in Fargo said they couldn’t address specific family issues.
“But we do work with families and ask them to address certain issues if it looks like there are safety concerns in order for a child to return to a home,” said Rick Van Camp, supervisor of child protective services for Cass County in Fargo.
“There are efforts that are made to secure the safe environment for a child,” he said. “We want to make sure we give the family every opportunity to address those issues so they can return a child to that atmosphere if at all possible.”
Hope to adopt
Jeff Blowers, who also works in construction, said he was “just shocked” by his son’s violent outburst. He hopes to adopt his orphaned granddaughter.
“He was a good man and this was totally off the wall for him,” the father said.
Despite Devin’s run-ins with the law and history of drug abuse, Jeff said he hadn’t seen signs of depression in his middle of three children. And he’s unsure how his son and girlfriend ended up in a farmer’s driveway Monday night near Alexandria — or why he shot a deputy.
“I have no idea where he came up with a gun,” Jeff Blowers said. “I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how it snapped or what went on. I have no clue.”
Van Camp, the child protection supervisor, said authorities would seriously consider grandparents’ adoption requests.
“We want to look for family options so that maybe there is more of a bond to that child than housing them in shelter or foster care,” he said. “We want to get them to an atmosphere where they are comfortable.”
Ronald Christopherson, Katie’s father, declined to discuss details surrounding his daughter’s life.
“We’re making funeral arrangements,” he said from Glenwood, Minn. “They were a couple, boyfriend and girlfriend. I have no clue how all that happened.”
A retired farm couple in Hudson Township called authorities at 9:51 p.m. Monday to report a suspicious four-door sedan in their driveway. Alexander, a three-year veteran of the Douglas County sheriff’s department, responded and obtained identification from Blowers and Christopherson and briefly returned to his vehicle.
Shortly before 10 p.m., when the deputy returned to the vehicle a second time, Blowers shot the deputy in the chest, according the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s preliminary investigation.
When Blowers and Christopherson’s car got stuck in the snow 50 yards away, they fled on foot. Law enforcement officials swarmed in, including a State Patrol helicopter.
Four hours later, authorities found Blowers and Christopherson dead near an outbuilding, along with a handgun and shotgun.
Staff writer Paul Walsh and staff researcher John Wareham contributed to this report.