One month after the discovery of a grisly triple homicide, marijuana-growing operation and a dog fighting ring in Malad, Idaho, questions still remain as to the motive for killing the three people at the property, including the 27-year-old mother of two small girls.
On Monday, KOMO 4 News reported that the homicide investigation in southeastern Idaho is being impeded by secrecy related to the world of illegal dog fighting.
The Sheriff’s Department stated that it is coming closer to finding a motive in the triple homicide. The investigation has been slow and arduous because of the secrecy that surrounds dog fighting operations and the 64 Pit Bulls—many badly scarred and wounded—that were living in metal barrels and chained far enough from each other to be constantly stimulated by territorial aggression, but not close enough to fight.
"We've had some information come to us that we'll be following up on,” said Oneida County Sheriff Jeff Semrad. “No suspects to speak of--but we've got a lot of information that may take us that direction, and the investigation is still moving forward,” he said, according to ABC4 News.
On Friday, April 5, someone went to the property just outside of Holbrook, Idaho, “to pick up a dog” and found a two-year-old girl sitting on the porch. The man went inside and discovered the bodies of Brent L. Christensen, 62, his son, Trent Jon Christensen, 32, and Trent's girlfriend, Yavette Chivon Carter, 27. They had all been shot. Carter's two month old daughter was still in her arms and unharmed.
Oneida County Sheriff Jeff Semrad said, "The mother of the two-month-old baby was basically huddled over her baby, obviously trying to protect her from the suspect. The baby was still under her arm when my officers got there."
Officials believe these murders have nothing to do with robbery, and that the victims knew their killer.
Police found 38 marijuana plants in the house, valued at $95,000 dollars, and the 64 Pit Bulls tied out in the back of the property. “Some of those pit bulls belonged to the Christensens, but many were owned by other people.” Of the dogs that were being boarded by Brent Christensen, “So far, only two have come forward to claim their dogs,” Semrad said.
"They're a little scared,” explained Semrad. “First of all, I have a triple homicide, and second of all it's a felony to fight dogs in Idaho. They keep tight-lipped about it," Oneida County Sheriff Jeff Semrad told the Idaho State Journal.
"There is a relationship, we believe, between the suspect and the victims and we're just trying to pinpoint what that relationship is; whether it has to do with the dogs or whether it has to do with marijuana or maybe it doesn't have anything to do with either of them,” said Semrad.
"Evidence is clear that this is not a random homicide…and the general public is not in immediate danger," Semrad said. The couple’s two daughters are staying with their grandmother, according to the report. "They're doing all right," Semrad said.
The Idaho Humane Society removed the 63 dogs. Officials said were in poor condition, with most being underweight and malnourished. Many had lacerations and scars, and others had skin, eye and ear ailments and broken bones that went untreated.
Three of the 64 pit bulls have been transferred to a rescue organization in Los Angeles, according to the Idaho Humane Society Spokesperson Hannah Parpart says. The humane society is now focusing on trying to clear about 11 to 12 dogs for local adoption.
Parpart said 11 of the pit bulls had to be euthanized due to dangerous behavior. "We knew right from the get-go that there was a group we'd have to euthanize," Parpart said, describing their behavior as "hyper focused" on fighting other dogs, and saying staff felt they wouldn't be safe in homes.
The sheriff said he would like to see Oneida County adopt a stricter ordinance regarding dogs and dog ownership. "I'd just as soon not have this sort of thing again," Semrad said.